Have You Stolen Someone’s Thunder?

By Mark Slatin, CCXP posted 02-02-2024 07:44 AM

Don't Be the Hero!

The idiom comes from the peevish dramatist John Dennis early in the 18th century, after he had conceived a novel idea for a thunder machine for his unsuccessful 1709 play Appius and Virginia and later found it used at a performance of Macbeth.

It’s an awful feeling.  

You’ve worked hard on something and someone steps in and “steals your thunder,” receiving credit for something you rightfully should have earned.

Anger, frustration, betrayal are all normal emotions when someone steals your thunder.

In Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller suggests nearly every story has a:

  • Hero
  • Guide
  • Victim
  • Villain

The hero is on a path to accomplish a goal but has some obstacle in their way.

On the other hand, the guide has a bit of wisdom that they share with the hero to help them accomplish their goal without seeking credit for themselves

(We’ll leave the victim and villain for another time.)

If you are a CX leader, you are first and foremost a change agent.  But the mistake too many CX professionals make is they try to be the hero.  

Your key stakeholders don’t want another hero.  

Let me repeat that, your stakeholders don’t want another hero.

It’s easy to lean on our knowledge of CX and CX jargon to play the role of the subject matter expert.  That’s playing the hero role.

Without a large team, a big budget, or positional power, CX leaders can fall into that trap.  

But it’s stealing the hero’s thunder.

And if you swoop in to play the role of the hero, they will:

  • Withdraw
  • Shutdown
  • Stonewall
  • Ghost

What’s worse, they won’t tell you that’s what they’re doing.

I know, I’ve been there multiple times as a CX practitioner.

It translates to projects going sideways or dead-ended after wasted months, even years.

For the CX leader, it means stress, anxiety, frustration, anger, etc.

Instead of stepping into the hero role and inadvertently stealing their thunder, be their guide.

The guide cares more about helping the stakeholder to achieve their goals and aspirations then their own.  And the stakeholder sees the guide as a genuine aid to help them win. 

  • Dorothy had the Glenda, the good witch
  • Daniel had Mr. Miyagi
  • Luke Skywalker had Yoda

The key to serving as a guide is to deeply understand and build trust with your stakeholders. 

When developing your CX roadmap, your Key Stakeholder Map should go way beyond a list of key stakeholders and their degree of influence.  It should include any gap that you have from a trustworthiness standpoint.  And it should include a strategy of how to close that gap - in your role as a guide, not their hero.

Becoming a Guide is the second of the four keys to leading CX change.

 The others three keys are:

  • Earning Trust

  • Building a Roadmap

  • Proving the Value 

Check out my blog on how to earn trust here on the CXPA site.

I’ll be sharing more about the other two keys right here.  Stay tuned!

If you’re interested in taking your CX leadership to go beyond CX fundamentals, see the special offer for The Trusted Guide Roadmap™ Master Class which begins on February 27.  There's a special offer for CXPA Registrants here 


Mark Slatin, CCXP is the CEO of EmpoweredCX,  Professor of Practice in the Masters of Science of CXM at Michigan State University, former CXPA Board Member, Creator of The Trusted Guide Roadmap™ Master Class, and host of The Delighted Customers Podcast.