I remember when my son Nathan started working with me many years ago. He has moved on to greener pastures, but it was an unforgettable special time for both of us. He is a delightful son and a blessing.
When we first started working together, we had some communication challenges. There were several incidents when I was frustrated and disappointed because he fell short of my expectations. For example, I expected him to be a morning person and assumed he would be fully engaged and ready to go by 7:30 AM! I would call him the first thing in the morning and get his voice mail. I felt let down and started to compose a story in my head. He was dropping the ball. Why didn’t he answer his phone? He must not respect me or appreciate the opportunity. He must not care about the business and our customers. He just isn’t taking this all very seriously. That was my story, and how wrong it was!
The true story was that he cared very deeply for me and our customers, but I couldn’t see it because I was focusing on his shortcomings (based on my expectations and my story). My expectations were blinding me 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 really seeing him.
In those early days together, our communication was tense and guarded, and quite often our conversation lacked the energy to brainstorm and solve problems. When I began to see that the story in my head was most of the problem, I chose to drop my criticism and began to look for all he was doing to help me and the business. I became an encourager, and we started enjoying working together. Our conversations became enjoyable and very productive. The result was that he made a significant contribution to creating the wonderful business that I have today. For the few years we worked together, we enjoyed an open communication and loved creating new opportunities and solving problems.
We both learned that mistakes and even conflict provided a great opportunity to improve the business and get to know each other. The communication process kept us humble and gave us good reason to laugh at ourselves and not take ourselves so seriously.
Here’s the lesson for you. Take a fresh look at yourself and your team. What if you dropped your stories about them? What if all your criticism stopped, and you just worked together to create solutions and solve problems? What if it was ok for you and them to make mistakes? What might you be you missing? Take another look, give some grace and benefit of the doubt, and then have a real conversation. You might really be pleasantly surprised! I was!