Like the shot heard round the world, most of us can recall those powerful instances or statements that alter our outlook on life. I’m not talking about, “Will you marry me,” or “Congrats you won the lottery” types of sentences. I’m speaking of sentences that stop the neurons from firing in your head and cause your brain to restructure itself! The sentences that unravel and remake you. As we like to say in our office, it made my brains fall out.
Sometimes it makes your brains fall out in a positive way, and other times, not so much. But either way, you probably have a distinct memory of the sentences that you will never be able to un-hear because it altered you forever.
Some years ago I worked for a particularly challenging boss. We very rarely saw eye to eye but we did, however, work successfully together and I learned a lot from my years on his team. To this day I have friendships and colleagues as a result. But I learned more in one sentence than I learned in years of daily grind, and it happened while sitting in a hotel lobby.
After one excruciating meeting with the boss above, I ran into a colleague and spent some time venting about the day’s events and the continual struggle. I believe I mentioned a gripping desire to grab him by the shoulders and shake him violently and say “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”
The Statement that Upended It All
My colleague, knowing that workplace violence was neither a good nor realistic option for me, replied with, “How can you give him that feedback in the spirit of caring, instead of the spirit of judgment?”
And just like that my brains fell out, I was unraveled and remade.
My background is in psychology. I ran mental health facilities for teenage girls for some years. The entire staff knew that there was only one thing that could push my buttons, and that was hearing the sentence, “I don’t care.”
In the middle of the night, night after night, I hauled myself out of bed and into the darkest corners of the city to pick-up teenage girls who called to tell me their fathers had beaten them, or their mothers had locked them out of the house, or that they lost their bus money. I refused to remove girls from the program because they needed to know that someone cared about them.
I volunteered in nursing homes. I donated time and money to charity. I was a caring person, dammit.
But he was right. I had to find a way to give the feedback in a way that said I cared and not that I was judging. I owed it to him. So at that moment, I had to end the conversation because I knew what he said was profound and I didn’t want to lose it. I had to let it sink in. And sink in it did. Much of the work we do today is about building relationships and transforming judgment into understanding between leaders, employees, and teams.
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Resources & Next Steps
developUs has created an experiential 2-day course to increase accountability by establishing performance expectations that promote a high-performance culture and align to your organization’s goals. Learn more about attending or bringing D.R.I.P. leadership to your organization.
If you would like to know more about helping your leadership & teams transform judgement into understanding, connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.