Over the last few weeks I’ve been sharing in “Saturday Musings” a number of principles that I try to live my life by. The last two articles in this series cover the result of living a life of truth/trust and truth/learning. This article will address the topic of empowerment and why trust/learning are fundamental to everyone’s success.
At it’s core, trust has two aspects:
1. Relationships – trust is all about developing strong relationships.
2. Longevity – trust is also in it for the long-term.
What learning is all about is making sure we don’t continue to make the same mistakes with those all important relationships in our lives. Let’s face it, we’ve all made mistakes with relationships. Learning also has another sense to it that many people don’t consider……and that’s humility.
When you are truly trying to learn and strengthen your relationships you’re not worried about whether you are right. What you are seeking is understanding and this often requires that you suspend your own opinions in order to understand the other persons point of view.
I would like to first of all share with you a recent negative experience I've had. A couple of weeks ago I received an email that was a bit of a “rocket” that questioned everything about me, from my integrity, ethics, you name it and I was wrong. The email was from someone I respected so I sat back and tried to think about whether I’d actually done the things I’d been accused.
In this process I was seeking to learn more about myself through this experience. After considering this for quite some time I wrote a reply that attempted to address the facts rather than being full of emotion. I immediately received an email back which was even worse then the first one.
This was quite hurtful and in the end I did something I’ve never done before in my life. I sent a one-line reply that said I had said everything I needed to on the topic. This infuriated the sender and they demanded a whole lot of things. Ever since then I’ve been silent on the matter.
This was a really important lesson for me. Sometimes, learning dictates that it’s necessary to put a separation between yourself and another person so that everyone can calm down. At some point in time I will tentatively reach out to the sender to see if they are in a state of mind to have a proper dialogue about the issues they raised. The end goal being our relationship is strengthened by the experience.
Like trying to have a sensible discussion with a drunk, it’s often very difficult to have a meaningful conversation with a person that is emotionally distraught. More often than not, they fire off salvos from the hip rather than listen with the goal of strengthening the relationships. The only thing that can ultimately heal these types of situations is time.
Now for the positive experience. A number of years ago I was leading a team of people and I took them through the principles that I have shared in this article series. Each week I would sit down with one of them and together we would discuss how they could improve what they were currently doing. Form the open discussion we sometimes discovered that I was hindering them at doing their job and so I need to change.
I essentially humbled myself before them and gave them permission to help me in my own learning journey. After all, where does it say that leaders must be perfect at everything? What better people to help me in my own position then those that I was leading?
Over time the level of trust between the team members became astounding. The team moved from playing political games and hiding weaknesses from each other to being radically transparent and open-minded. Each person viewed a criticism as an opportunity to learn. It was one of the most empowered team that I’ve every had the privilege of leading.
Every now and then I happen to bump into some of those team members. Without fail, they bring up with me our joint experience and that our time together was one of the most empowering in their lives.
Empowered relationships don’t happen by chance….they are more often than not the result of one or more of the parties taking the risk by creating a learning environment. It is risky, but if all parties remain humble, the benefits far outweigh the risks.
When you look at your own personal and professional relationships ask yourself whether they are empowered? What needs to be done to make them so and is it time to take a risk. For some, sadly, you may have to create a separation for a time before embarking on the path forward.
Have a great weekend.