The Two Most Important Rules

Following up with yesterday’s post, I want to speak towards managing relationships. We need relationships, we need people in our lives. We need people to laugh with, cry with, eat with, and share life with. Even if it’s because we need a paycheck to get by – someone will be writing that paycheck for you.

But, relationships shouldn’t be reduced to strategy (despite the tactics we use to manage them).

So, how do we value those relationships in an honest way? I think there are two rules that guide honesty in relationships. The two most important rules are:

  • Do onto others as you would have them do onto you (the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31), and
  • Love thy neighbor as thyself (the second commandment (Mark 12:31, Matthew 22:36-40).

From Christian theology – we are called to love and respect through compassion. I was taught that first we love, and then we do as my mother encouraged, walk in another man’s shoes (for a mile) before we begin to judge. When we walk in another’s shoes, we suffer with them, which means we are called to compassion.

We are all works in progress, but if relationships are driven by love and compassion, their authenticity would rise and our call to make the world a better place would make enormous strides.

Examples

So, those are the rules, and here are five examples: three where the rules go wrong and two where they go right.

Example 1: I can’t hear you

They complained to each other. The complained about the conditions, the compensation, the lack of understanding. They didn’t feel respected. They didn’t feel like their experience was honored. They didn’t feel like they were truly given ownership of projects they were tasked with executing. They felt like they were being treated as puppets with multiple masters. And, they didn’t like it. There were various bosses who floated through, even though some had only been there a few months.

The bottom line for these people were their complaints weren’t being heard. They had tried to go through all the proper channels, but they kept getting back to square one. Finally, they were told to just put up or shut up.

The other perspective, for the newcomer was that they were all petulant children. They were throwing tantrums in the work place, and that’s just not how things were done.

In another instance, the employees who tried to make their concerns heard found themselves looking for other work!

The result: the newcomers failed to listen. And, in the other instance, management chose to replace employees, rather than fix issues.

Example 2: I’m smarter than you

He had turned to her for advice. She had been in an important role longer than he, and he needed to hear her story. He was amazed at how much she did, how much she controlled, and with such few resources. The first few months of their relationship, he was in awe of her expertise.

Something changed, and he realized that maybe he grasped things better. Maybe he had more training around their shared interests. Maybe he really did have more experience than he gave himself credit for. The bottom line was that he no longer needed, nor did he want, her advice. The irony was that he was now in a position to influence others whether or not she still had a job.

The result: because he no longer needed her advice, he diminished her expertise and worth and saw her as a disposable employee.

Example 3: Teammate not pulling their weight

She wouldn’t pick up her things. She didn’t attend mandatory work parties. She didn’t communicate with the other members that she had a need. The bottom line was that she was a part of the team, but she was not pulling her weight. They had all agreed to do a certain amount of work, and that work wasn’t forthcoming from her, for months. To the point that her lack of work was becoming a burden on other members.

Another member said, “Someone needs to have an uncomfortable conversation with her, and I’m not sure how that should happen.” To which the reply was, “With compassion.”

The result: shock at the suggestion of yielding to compassion to lead a conversation. The summation: compassion is so far from our thinking that we jump to quitting relationships, and not suffering with someone and building stronger relationships.

Example 4: Compassion in coaching

As a parent, we have a lot of kids DVDs floating through our house, on loan from the library. A recent trend was a slew of Bob the Builder videos. In one video, Lofty the crane’s fear of heights yield crippling results. Instead of switching him out for a better crane, Bob compassionately works through Lofty’s fears to help him be better.

The result: Lofty learned how to overcome his fears, and Bob strengthened his team through compassion. The summation: Bob chose to make a “good employee” out of Lofty by working with him. This helped Bob have a stronger, more loyal team.

Example 5: Listen, please

Last month I read that empathy careers are on the rise. The article summarized that with our emphasis on digital communication, we are losing our face-to-face connections. As such, we are supplementing with therapists of all shapes (massage, physical, psychological) to bartenders and fitness coaches. So much so that these “empathy careers” are expected to be 20% of the jobs by 2020.

The result: We aren’t being listened to so we’re creating a market of listening.

(More on empathy in firms of endearment and the benefits to a company.)

In Short…

The disheartening realization from examples one through three is that they happen daily. We are so caught up in our daily lives that we forget as leaders we have the power to make tough relationships, great; or turn sour, good relationships. In the busy-ness of it all, we are relegated to low hanging fruit. And, that means the low-hanging fruit of relationships – relationships that are easy, and without conflict. Relationships, leading with compassion and love take time, and we don’t budget that necessary time into our task lists. So, relationships suffer, and then we wonder why we don’t succeed in our goals.

I would like to challenge you, dear reader, to listen more and lead with compassion when giving advice – especially if it’s how to manage a project. We would all be served to lead with curiosity instead of simply reminding people of where they went wrong, how we’re smarter than them, and more mature – which means we don’t have to listen.