Many years ago, my son Nathan chose to come work with me in my coaching business. I was thrilled that he wanted to be a part of my professional calling. In those initial days together, we had some communication challenges. There were several times I became frustrated and disappointed because he fell short of my expectations.
Here is one example. I have given him a starting time of 7:30 AM and expected him to be fully engaged and ready to go bright and early! Sometimes I would call him first thing in the morning and get voice mail. I felt let down and agitated. A story of disappointment and fear started to form in my head. Why wasn’t he answering the phone? He was obviously dropping the ball. He doesn’t respect me. He must not care about the business and our customers. He just isn’t taking this job seriously. Maybe I’ve made a huge mistake. That was my story. And it was not true.
The truth was that he cared very deeply for me and our customers. I was focusing on his shortcomings (based on my expectation and story) and was blind to his heart of service and all that he was doing for me and our customers. My story kept me from seeing all the good that was happening and recognizing his care and service. Consequently, in those early days, our communication was tense and guarded, and we lacked the positive energy to brainstorm and solve problems. Thankfully I started to recognize that the story in my head was most of the problem. When I chose to drop the criticism, and began to listen, I started to recognize all that he was doing to help me and the business. I became an encourager instead of a critic, and we started enjoying working together and looked forward to our conversations. We were also able to create agreements about schedules and availability.
Nathan ended up making a great contribution to the successful business that I have today. We both are so glad that we had that special season of working together. Even though he moved on to better opportunities, my customers still ask about him and tell me how much they appreciated him. Nathan has a passion for excellence and continuous improvement, and we both care deeply for those we serve. Even though we sometimes see things differently, our core values and work ethic are completely aligned.
I challenge you to take a fresh look at yourself and your team. What if you dropped your stories? What if all the criticism stopped, and you just focused on creating solutions and solving problems? What if it was ok for you and them to make mistakes? What might you be missing and not seeing? Take another look. You might be pleasantly surprised! I was!