A Holiday Survival Guide from the Hallmark Channel

During the holiday season, “good will to all” is an easy leadership reminder. Have you considered the Hallmark Channel for a few more?

This week begins my favorite television viewing time of the year. Early Fall is nice with the unveiling of new shows, and the sweeps months always offer excitement, but the holidays marks the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas.” My excitement is not a hipster attempt at being ironical. I really like these made-for-television movies. I concede that they are cheesy, yet they are also fun, heartwarming, and a rare occasion when my wife and I can enjoy some quality TV time together.

In watching countless Hallmark holiday movies, I’ve noticed a few trends that will make you a better leader. I encourage you to view a few of these television gems, but before you do, here are three lessons to keep in mind as you enjoy this holiday tradition.

Santa isn’t the only one who is predictable

All of the Hallmark holiday movies tell the same basic story. The main character tends to be self-centered, ambitious, and/or has misaligned priorities. Through the course of two hours, they realize their shortcomings and make the right decision just in time for Christmas Eve or, if it’s a real nail-biter, Christmas Day.

Before you minimize the power of a fairly repetitive formula, let’s examine Google’s hiring criteria. In their tens of thousands of data points related to on-the-job success, Google determined that the most important character trait of a leader is predictability. This may not sound exciting, but Google’s evidence-based approach found that a predictable, consistent leader can more effectively remove roadblocks from their employees’ path. Employees are then able to grasp “that within certain parameters, they can do whatever they want.”

“If a leader is consistent, people on their teams experience tremendous freedom, [but if] your manager is all over the place, you’re never going to know what you can do, and you’re going to experience it as very restrictive.”—Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google

Where are your fellow elves?

As our main character goes through their transformation, they are always surrounded by a core support system. There’s the sassy co-worker/best friend, the demanding but lovable boss, the cute kid (typically the child of the love interest or an orphan), and the seemingly irrelevant elderly wise person. Each plays a role in pushing our hero closer to the finish line—the best friend forces the workaholic to go to the “big party,” the boss provides focus, the kid brings heart, and the elder provides poignant advice when the main character loses his/her way (which always happens in the last 20 minutes of the movie).

Maintaining a solid support system is not just a holiday movie storytelling trope. A classic study suggests that for the “leadership dream” to be realized, we must construct and sustain a group of people who believe in, challenge, and encourage our success. These individuals are not “yes-men” or subordinates, but allies and peers who have the freedom to provide truthful but less-than-popular feedback.

Barrel through like a flying sleigh in Manhattan

The main character of every holiday movie always has some type of “last chance” performance on the line. This may be a sales pitch meeting to close a new account, an article deadline for their newspaper/magazine, or the big city council meeting to save the foster home. The stakes are high and one flub will be a calamity.  Spoiler alert: they always persevere and come out on top.

If you want the same outcomes as our hero, there are only two things to remember. One, you need inspiration. The first half of the movie delivers the motivation needed to re-prioritize, enthuse, and give focus. Then it takes work. The movies illustrate this through an angst-ridden montage of crumpled papers, debates in front of a chalkboard, and a late night marathon session of frantic labor all with a classic R&B soundtrack. You don’t need to be so dramatic, but when the pressure is on, you must be able to channel your anxiety into constructive energy.

Becoming a better leader does not need to rely on the miracles of the holiday season.  Sure, we could get into the different genres of Christmas movies—“Santa Claus is real and needs your help” or “I woke up as a younger/older version of myself”—but I recommend starting your holiday movie experience with a more grounded setting. Look for one starring Candace Cameron Bure, Lori Loughlin, or any one of your favorite 1980/90s sitcom legends. Then sit back with your hot cocoa, put your feet up, and let the leadership lessons flow.

How Impostor Syndrome Hampers Your Success

Why do we resist accepting our accomplishments? Ive meet too many successful people who suffer from impostor syndrome. These are individuals who (despite the evidence) remain convinced they are frauds, believing they do not deserve their success. Whitney Cummings is one such individual.  

Whitney Cummings is a prominent comedian. She’s had her own prime time network show, appears on the wildly popular Comedy Central Roasts, is co-creator of the CBS sitcom 2 Broke Girls, and sells out every stand up gig she books. Yet in a recent interview, she stated:

“I have Career Dysmorphia. I think I’m a complete failure. I see myself as an open mic-er who is a phoney and I don’t see myself as a success at all. I argue with a lot of people about that.”

Whitney is not alone. In a Huffington Post article by imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young, she mentions a number of successful people who, as Mike Myers put it, still expect the “no-talent police” to come and arrest them. Such high profile performers as Tina Fey, Don Cheadle, Kate Winslet, Jody Foster, and producer Chuck Lorre have all spoken openly about their inner fraud feelings.

Like most self-described imposters, Whitney does not deny the significance of her accomplishments. She simply de-values her role in achieving them by chalking it up to chance and feeling as if she’s tricking others into thinking she’s better than she is. To explain this mentality, a study by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes found that where many people “own success as attributable to a quality inherent in themselves, imposters project the cause of success outward to an external cause (luck) or to a temporary internal quality (effort) that they do not equate with inherent ability.”

If you consider yourself to be an imposter, there’s good news – you can do something about it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Stop acting as if you’re afraid of success. You have attacked your goals and achieved something to be proud of. People who are afraid to succeed don’t do this. So if anything, you are already a success and are afraid to accept it.
  • Accept that you have a role in your success. As mentioned, some feel like a fraud because they are unable to internalize success. You can either act as if you’ve been “given” an opportunity or you can look back at all the effort you’ve exerted to get where you are today.
  • Take others off their pedestal. Some imposters have an unrealistic image of what it means to be a success. They idolize their heroes instead of seeing them as the humans they really are. Peal back the façade and you’ll quickly realize that nobody knows what they are doing. Confidence may serve to hide insecurities, but we are all working with a hopeful ignorance of the future.
  • Get a support system. Find people you respect who are willing to listen to your self-doubts and can help you come to grips with your success.
  • Admit you’re a fake. This is actually a therapy technique where you role-play the opposite of “I’m not competent.” The idea is to act out being competent so you can unveil a part of your self-image that lurks beneath the self-doubt. You can then work through your fears and guilt and move toward a more realistic view of your abilities.
  • Admit you’re really a fake. If all else fails, accept that you’re a fraud and use this insecurity to push yourself to work even harder. Maybe being an actual imposter is the fuel you need to fuel future efforts.

It’s a shame Whitney Cummings, Mike Myers, and the rest of us can’t appreciate what we’ve achieved. Fortunately, there’s no “no-talent police” to arrest you for finally being found out. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a state of career dysmorphia.

You work too hard to find yourself delusionally rejecting your accomplishments. The sooner you can accept this, the sooner you can put your efforts into earning more wins.

Photo Credit: Ngọc Hà via Compfight cc