Sunday, January 30, 2011

Your Inner Circle, Will they speak hard truth?

As leaders we are going to make bad decisions and suffer failures due to that. What we need around us, in our inner circle, is people who are willing to speak hard truth to us out of care and concern for us. To see an example of how not to be helpful to your leaders, see my post here. King David had made some bad decisions, his friend Nathan came to him to speak some hard truth. Nathan used a parable to get the point across.

In 2 Samuel, chapter 12, verses 1 thru 15. We are told a parable by the prophet Nathan. Now Nathan was sent by God to confront David for his multiple sins, including murder. Now that's some hard truth that I hope that I never have to confront anyone about. So, let's see how Nathan handled the situation. 

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!  ( Nathan explains to David the consequences of his sin, Skip to Verse 13 ), 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.
Now David may not have listened to Nathan had he came right up to him and spoke the truth to him. Nathan was wise to tell David a story that he knew David would sympathize with and listen. 
We would do well to learn from this example when we are the one's who have to approach our leaders or friends. Yes, the truth has to be spoken, but it's the delivery that really determines how they will receive your truth and counsel. 
I also want to examine the fact that no failure is final, Yes, you will suffer the consequences of it. But, it is not final. How do we recover quicker from a major failure?
  • Own up to your failures: Many leaders feel that they have to hide or conceal their failures. It's much easier to deal with a failure if you admit it and get it out into the open. Additionally, the consequences are usually less then if you try to hide it.
  • Show forgiveness to your people: When we show forgiveness and grace to our people when they fail or make mistakes, we empower them to do the same when we fail. If your on your pedestal all the time, the first time you fall off it, not too many people will be giving you a helping hand.
  • Be accountable and responsible for your actions: When leaders hold themselves accountable it's a great example to our people. It also adds creditability to the leader when holding others accountable for their actions.
  • Be humble and willing to change: When we show our people that we are humble and teachable it empowers them to come to us and unleash their creativity. We allow them to see that we don't assume that it's our way or the highway.
  • Learn from failure: Whether it's you or one of your people, focus on the failure and the dynamics of how it happened. Don't focus on the person and turn it into a witch hunt. Record and pass along your findings to others, so they can learn from it as well. 
Have you ever failed? How do we fail forward instead of on our backs? Please share your experiences, I get great delight in discovering others points of view. It truly helps me to learn and become better as well. Thank you. 


Trish McFarlane said...

Greg, For a relatively short post, you pack in more valuable lessons and nuggets than many writers can. I agree with you that the way that truth is delivered is the key. When we tailor our style to deliver the message in the way that will best received by the person we're addressing, we increase the chance that they will embrace it and be able to learn from it.

This brings me to the point you made about being teachable. I firmly believe that every person is teachable, you just have to figure out how to reach some of them in a way that is non-threatening and won't put them on the defensive.

A recent example is I gave my sister advice on leading. She is a 1st grade teacher in an extremely rough school in a poor part of town. Getting kids not to fist fight each day is the main order of business. She was trying to find ways to lead the children to better behavior so that they can learn the basics of reading and writing. I tried to come up with strategies to help her lead the parents instead by getting them to come to the classroom to "help". I explained that what she'd really be doing is teaching the parents how to parent and teach their children. Out of 46 parents, only a handful have finished high school and have a job. The rest don't. By tailoring her approach to the parents she'll impact the behavior of the kids while in her classroom. That's empowering and leading.

Great thought provoking piece. Sorry for the long comment. Here's my post on inner circles:

Voices of Leadership said...

Thank you so much for your kind words and the time to comment. You make a great point about being teachable, approaching people in a non-threating manner is always the best approach. I really like your example as well. Your sister is lucky to have such a trusted advisor in her corner. It sounds like a tricky situation she is in. Your advice is dead on though, as you mentioned the parents are the key to success. Your comment length is find, feel free to leave a comment anytime. I'm honored to have you join the conversation. Thanks again.


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