The old EKG machine had those colored balls that stick to your chest by suction cups – but the suction cups were all missing so it took three Nepali nurses to hold them in the right places while another one ran the test. Katmandu is not a good place to have a heart attack and, “there’s nothing wrong with your heart,” isn’t very reassuring. I had left Thailand under the duress of being stuck between two factions of our team, and both sides believed I had the authority to make the other side see things their way, the correct way. I believed so too until I woke up on the floor of the airplane with an oxygen mask on. It is not my responsibility to make people understand each other – it is their responsibility, and never again will I become the mediator. Just don’t do it!
Here’s the podcast with Becky and Al:
When communication becomes a competition to be right, no matter if you have the position to be right, the expertise to be right, or just the determination to be right, you become a detriment rather than an asset to the team and the vision.
Communication is bridge building. If we’re all on the same side of the river we don’t need a bridge. But the vision doesn’t need a bunch of people who are all on the same side of every river, we need the ideas and creativity that diversity offers. Then we need to build lots of bridges. Bridges bring people together who were formerly apart.
When it comes to moving the vision ahead, would you rather be right about something or be an influence? We don’t influence the people we talk at, we influence the people you listen to. That seems antithetical but it works like this…
A suitor of one of our Thai daughters sent his parents over to ask for permission to marry her and agree on a dowery. I had no idea how this worked so I seated them in our living room and sent the girls to the bedroom. When the conversation came to anything I didn’t understand I would excuse myself and pop into the bedroom to discuss it with the girls. It took a while but we settled all the details one at a time and ended up with two cows and four chickens.
From then on I have listened to my kids a lot so that I can give leadership that includes their ideas. In fact, I would rather agree with my kids when they are wrong than limit their growth by me being right. This is a great way to lead if you want to succeed and have them like you too.
Extend this to the team dynamic and you can see the powerful role that humility plays. The goal of communication isn’t to tell me something, but that we will both learn more about it than we knew before. Real communication will empower us, move us ahead.