Normal is What You Grew Up With

By Mickey Lyles May 13, 2020

In 2014 my wife, Krystal, and I were fighting to put our marriage back together and were seeking help. We had enrolled in a 4-day marriage intensive in Atlanta, GA. What I got out of that 4 days was much more than a better marriage. It was literally life changing.

Life changing to the point that I became a marriage and life coach myself because I knew that the principles that I learned that week were going to shape my future and that I could use that information to help others shape theirs. I went to Atlanta that week to save my marriage, but I was given a whole new life.

What I found over the next few years, as I continued to study and develop convictions about life principles, is that there are a handful of life ideals that are just true, they just are. They apply to almost everyone. Many people have figured them out and try to deliver them to others using different methods.

Some write books, some lead conferences, some do personal coaching, some publicly speak
about them, but the key is in the packaging. Programs, speakers, and events touch people in different
ways, but when you peel back the content, very often, it really is the same message just wrapped up in
different packaging.

As I continued to use these tools to better my relationship with my wife, I realized that these same tools and principles applied to my relationships with my employees, and for that matter my customers.

One of the most powerful principles I learned that week in Atlanta was that “Normal is what you grew up with.” Wow, think about that for a second. If normal is what you grew up with, then we all have very different beliefs in what “normal” is.

When I was in Atlanta, every application of every principle I learned was only being applied, in my mind, to my marriage. Thus, the same applies with this “Normal is what you grew up with” principle. How did my parents interact? Did we sit at the dinner table as a family to eat? Did my father show my mother unconditional love? Was discipline fair in my home? My parent’s drank alcohol, my wife’s did not. My parent’s were divorced, her’s were not. The list goes on. No wonder we were having problems. Our training ground, our “normals,” were very different!

Then one day, I started broadening my vision for how these same tools applied to my relationship with my employees and customers and it revolutionized my management style. I only have one wife to navigate her normal, but what about the roughly 80 employees that I manage? If normal is what I grew up with, then what “normal management style” did I grow up with? In my career, who shaped my normal? Even more important, what is my employee’s idea of normal? Surely, they haven’t all been subjected to the exact same type of management in their careers. Is it fair for me to expect them ALL to conform to my normal, or should I try and understand their normal? Some of us have worked for employers who ruled with an iron fist. Some have worked for the family business in the past and are used to a lackadaisical atmosphere. Some have worked for great leaders and have high expectations of YOU, their new leader.

Understanding the “normals” of all the relationships you manage will drastically impact your ability to interact with them, lead them, and ultimately get the most productivity out of them.

I had a mid-level branch manager that I worked with that was at the company before I was brought on board. I was initially brought in as a consultant and ultimately asked to implement the plan I presented as the General Manager. I was implementing a lot of change. Change to policies, staffing, business structure, marketing, the whole gamut. I received a lot of push back from this particular manager. We really struggled in our relationship the first two years I was with the company, and I could not understand his approach to how he ran his branch or why he couldn’t conform to the changes. Then, using this tool, I went to lunch with him one day and got him to open up about his life. I learned that his mom died when he was ten. I learned that his dad died when he was sixteen. I learned that he was basically raised by his baseball coach, while trying to take care of his little sister. He then went on to play baseball in college where his coach mentored him.

It made me think about my coaches in high school. Were they gentle men? No, they were hard nosed guys that yelled at us and had extremely high expectations of winning and winning only. No slackers allowed! Bingo! That was his “normal.” He didn’t know how to communicate with his employees any other way than with an iron fist and a no-nonsense approach. He hadn’t been trained to build relationships, just subordinates. In his mind, they were players. They were there to help HIM win. I worked with him for over two years on understanding his employees better and worked on his personal development. I had him read some leadership books, and enrolled him in some college management classes. Now he is one of the more sought after managers to work for within the organization. We re shaped his “normal.”

Normal is what you grew up with, what you were taught, what you saw, what you heard, what you learned.

What is your “normal”? Is it healthy? Is it serving you well? Is it productive? Are you willing to look within and ask yourself if it needs to be re-shaped?

Use this principle to better understand the normal of your staff and customers and I’ll bet you find some gems under the rocks.

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