Do you remember the story about the emperor who had no clothes? He trusted some tailors that he’d never met more than those who had kept him in royally outfitted for years. Even when he couldn’t see the amazing results the tailors touted, he was so proud that he boldly went forward assuming that those closest to him were advising him properly. But, they had their own misconceptions, fears, and a bit of mistrust. We each take our own turn as naked emperor, tailors, and advisers. So, what can we do about it?
Episode 36 Show Notes
- The children’s book that inspired this episode – https://amzn.to/2InckHc
- Website dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen – https://andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheEmperorsNewClothes_e.html
Episode 36 Transcript
This is Rebecca Clark Episode 36 Naked Emperors
This podcast is for anyone that knows they haven’t yet found and offered up their best work, but are compelled to seek it out and do it. Are you ready to move your desk?
Now, this is a PG rated podcast. So anyone worried about the naked part of the title, I hope that you realize this is just a very innocent episode from that standpoint. Not innocent from the topic at hand, because it is very important at every level of our society that we address this naked Emperor syndrome. Should we call it? I don’t know. I’ve been very aware of it the last few years.
To sum it up simply, I would reference something that all of us have perhaps experienced in life. And that is, if you have salad for lunch and then afterwards you’re talking to someone and there’s a piece of lettuce or spinach on your front tooth. And someone doesn’t say anything about it. They may be a close friend or a coworker or any human being, right? They just need to say, “Hey, you have spinach on your tooth.” It just seems like the right thing to do. To point out something that the other person may be embarrassed about or may want to know about. But, we sit back and we don’t tell them. And we have our reasons, right? The reasons, maybe that we’re scared. The reason may be that we actually want them to be embarrassed, and so we want to just see who else notices. Or, maybe we think the person can handle it and they’ll get a kick out of it if you wait and tell them later.
Either way, there’s something that has taken place that the general population would understand is something that someone may or may not feel comfortable with. And we just let it sit there and we don’t address it for reasons inside of us. I’m recognizing in life that I actually do hold a lot in and don’t share it. But, there’s also an awful lot that I do share and it’s situations where I have a boss or someone that’s leading me. I hope that I have always been straightforward with them, but I know if I look back that I probably haven’t. Most of the time, I made a conscious effort on a daily basis.
When I’ve been in management or leadership roles to talk to any leaders/boss, I report about something that I think they should be aware of as they make decisions, especially if their decisions don’t make any sense to me or anyone else that needs to execute upon those demands or expectations. And there have been times, especially in the last few years, where I’ve openly said to my bosses, if they’ve pushed back on my thoughts, “Well, I just didn’t want you to be a naked emperor.” Sometimes we have some chuckles from that, and sometimes I get some strange looks.
Now I am operating under the assumption when I say this that many of us have read a children’s book that’s been out there hundreds of years. Actually, the story’s been out there hundreds of years, and it’s obviously free for people’s interpretation now because there’s many versions of this story, just like there is with the three little pigs and some of those really old stories. Now people interpret them differently. But, I do have a children’s book called The Emperor’s New Clothes, and maybe that’s more of what people know this reference by, but in case you haven’t heard it, I will share the brief story.
There’s this emperor that constantly wants to look great and have magnificent clothes. He just wants wonderful surroundings. His clothes are very important to him, so it’s very clear this outward appearance is something that he thinks about all the time. Well, like all things, we can get addicted to them or weaken desire them. Maura’s. We purchase more, weaken desire more and more and get less of a feeling of pleasure over time. So it takes more toe, make us fill fulfilled if that’s the way that we seek fulfillment.
He’s not feeling very great about his magnificent close this year. When he goes out to parade through the town, he wants to make sure he has the most wonderful outfit ever. And his staff, of course, isn’t good enough because they’re the ones that have produced everything before. So he wants to seek out new Taylor’s that can meet this need for him, and somehow he finds these tailors that convinced him that they make the most magnificent clothes you’ve ever seen. And so he buys into this and pays them up front.
They go get this material, they start doing their thing and the person that the emperor has put in charge of watching this process. So he’s kind of like a project manager goes to check on these guys and to see what they’re creating, and he can’t see anything the Taylors like will. Surely anyone that’s not stupid, you know, can see that this is amazing cloth and we’re creating this magnificent outfit. Well, of course, this project manager that the emperor’s put in place doesn’t see anything, but he doesn’t want to be thought as stupid, so he’s like, “Oh, wow, that’s magnificent.” They go to show the emperor, and he can’t see anything either. But, everyone else, including the project manager, is acting as if there’s something magnificent that can’t be seen by the Emperor. And so he decides to trust them and goes along with whatever he does, and they go back to work on whatever this cloth is. The whole process goes through until this day that they’re supposed to march through the castle and through the town and display this amazing new outfit and do whatever ceremony they’re supposed to do.
The emperor gets dressed in this magnificent outfit and of course, he has nothing on. Everyone surrounding him sees that he has nothing on but figure that they’re missing something. At least that’s what we’re led to believe in the story. Yet at the same time, you have to wonder if all of them knew what was going on, decided not to question it decided to allow the Emperor look this way for whatever reason, kind of like the spinach on the tooth and proceed with all of the pomp and circumstance of this event.
Now, from the version I’m reading, a lot of the people don’t notice at first because they’re all bowing to this emperor. They have no idea what his clothes do look like or don’t look like, which is another interesting fought in all of this, right? If people are bowing because they’re supposed to have their head down in the work doing what they think they’re supposed to do, they may not be paying attention. They may not even be aware that an emperor is naked, and even if they wanted to point it out, they just wouldn’t know because they’re just so focused and not paying attention to their surroundings and just thinking the work right at hand is important.
So, he’s on a horse going out with the entourage through the townsfolk. Very few people are looking. But, of course the royal entourage is aware and wondering what people will say when they see it. Then you have a couple little children that come running through the crowd to the front. They want to see this emperor marching through and a little boy shouts out, “The emperor has no clothes, he’s naked!”
And at that point of truth, all of a sudden everyone has to admit it. Everyone realizes that there is an actual naked emperor sitting on a horse marching through the town square.
They realized that the emperor would never desire this. The emperor realizes he’s been duped by a whole slew of people. And, of course, in my version anyway, it doesn’t show the whole process of him getting back to the castle quickly. In this particular story, he realizes how much emphasis he put on his own thoughts and worries about not being seen as perfect or royal or whatever he was thinking and how it hurt him because he didn’t seek out the honest opinions of others, and those surrounding him proved to not be willing to share with him the actual events and situations that were going on.
Now the thoughts in this episode, I think, are geared toward both the emperor and the townsfolk because I think all of us play both roles in our lives in some capacity, whether it’s home or at work. But in some capacity we are citizens reporting to a higher authority or an employee reporting to a boss. And some instances we are the boss or the leader, and we have people that were directing and influencing. And there have been so many situations in management and leadership roles that I have held where I have had to make choices like, What do I share with them?
What are they open to hearing? What is too much for them to handle? Or who do I need to find to go talk to that person? Because I’m not the right person to deliver this message, and there are other instances where someone’s sitting in front of me. If I’m in a leadership or management role at home or at work. I kind of used work terms here. But if one of the citizens quote unquote is talking to me, I have to discern Wait a second. Are they doing this out of their self interest?
Are they doing this because they’re trying to hint to me that I’m a naked empress? Is that the right word? What are they really trying to communicate to me? And I know there’s many times in the past. In fact, all through my thirties, where I was just majorly managing upwards, I would go into my boss’s all the time and say, Why are we doing it this way? You sure you want to do it that way? Have you thought about this? Do you understand? When you make that decision, people are gonna assume you have known this information or that you have decided against something else and trying to help them.
But at the same time, I was a bit blunt and bold in ways that they might have found jarring on the flip side. I’m saying this because I’ve been on the other side of the table having people that report to me come in and complain about something or share something that they’re discouraged about or being actually mad and angry and to realize that somewhere mixed up in all of that, they’re trying to tell me that they need me to take action, that they need me to fight a battle that they want me to be aware of, more information and more impacts before I stick with a decision I’ve made.
And sometimes I don’t change my decision because I know that there are things they’re not aware of that I must consider. And then other times I sit back and go, Oh, wait a second. I’ve been on the other side of the desk I’ve been the citizen and tried to hint or be blatant about something with my boss, where I’ve really been wanting to help them put their best foot forward and not cause any of the ruckus behind the scenes that they might not be aware of. And so in those moments as a boss, I have really had to say, OK, I think they’re trying to do what I used to do. They’re trying to give me hints so that I don’t embarrass myself so I don’t embarrass the team or the division or the organization they have competitive on the ground intelligence that I need to pay attention to. In the story about the emperor and the project manager and the citizens, It could be an indication of the current trust level they had with each other as well. Whatever experiences had gone on before impacted their choice at the moment, unless someone decided to not let those impact it and make a different choice.
But clearly everyone decided to be quiet and not say anything. And the one person that said something was someone that didn’t have anything to lose. They didn’t have a job, they were just running free. They were little kids on, one said. The emperor has no clothes, and how helpful would it be if we when we gave feedback or support toe our bosses are co workers to those that report to us or those that look to us for leadership? If we could not be so worry about our status that we could tell them whatever they need to hear, that could help them make decisions.
Now it’s up to the emperor side of us to do something with the information received and what we do with that will vary and eats situation. But hopefully we can do it from a place of understanding that the people are giving us their authentic thoughts and hopes, and we can consider that as we make our decisions. But if there’s been a trust breach, that’s very difficult because then you don’t know what to trust coming from some of the people that give feedback so this, Like I said, on the surface, it doesn’t.
It’s it can be fun and not seem like a big deal. But there’s lots of layers to this emperor that has no close. And I would suggest that it’s important to think about clothing the emperor, making sure that we are closed when we are in the capacity of leading or managing, and that we look out for those that were leading and managing and help them be closed, help them not expose themselves in the wrong ways that detract from their leadership that detract from their personal growth, that we do our part to help build them.
And I would submit that this would even be valuable if you felt the person leading you was a jerk of some sort or immoral or unethical, because at the end of the day you are responsible for your choices and your decisions. And if you identify something, it would be important to point it out or share it or help knowing that that’s the role you play. And in some of those cases, it will not make a difference. But at least you will know that you acted appropriately based upon what you know you should for yourself.
And it’s important to act in all of those situations because then it could become a habit so that when it really can influence change and growth and improvement, you already have a habit of giving that kind of feedback and support. Just some thoughts. I hope you have some great clothes you are wearing today. Pay attention after your lunch meeting and let people know if they have any spinach on their teeth. That alone is good practice for clothing, the naked emperors, ourselves and others. Thanks for listening to the show today.
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