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Choosing Hopefulness

Bill was promised an ownership position if he could turnaround the failing profit center. He had the smarts, the experience, the enthusiasm, and a plan. First he removed incompetent staff, then hired good people and improved the service. Sales increased and profits grew. Team spirit lifted. All the while, the owner acted as his top cheerleader.

Suddenly the boss started to find fault in any mistake Bill made. He went around Bill to the staff and micro-managed everything. After a while Bill succumbed. Like a caged lion stripped of his pride, he crouched silent in the shadows to avoid the whip of an inept trainer. The gleam in Bill’s eyes disappeared. Talented people left. Profits tumbled. Bill was fired. The message came via e-fax.

“When persons of power rob others of their right to make their own choices, they do it most often because they feel powerless themselves. Insecurity is a typical trait of a tyrant,” writes Dan Baker, PH.D in his book, What Happy People Know. Dr. Baker coaches high income people, who appear to have everything in life except happiness. He says when a person faces a problem and acts out as an oppressor; this can often be traced to a feeling of helplessness. Baker says helplessness is founded on one or more of these three perceptions:

Permanence- thinking a problem will last forever
Personalization- thinking a problem is entirely your fault or one single person’s fault
Pervasiveness- thinking a problem extends to every other situation

Tom Watson, the founder of IBM, made his fortune by surrounding himself with smart people and allowing them to make their own decisions. Once, a decision was made at IBM that resulted in a $10 million dollar loss. The manager responsible for the decision was devastated and offered to resign. Watson replied, “What? After I just made a $10 million dollar investment in your education!”

When an individual is faced with a problem and chooses to show up as inquiring and supportive; this is usually because he/she comes from a position of internal security and hopefulness. Hopefulness is experienced as a balanced blend of: confidence and promise, reality and vision, expectancy and encouragement. Hopefulness is often grounded on one or more of these three principles:

Temporariness – acknowledging the facts and believing “this too shall pass”
Teamliness* – acting as if building lasting relationships is what matters most
Tapering off – using mistakes as tools that shave rough edges, narrow options and sharpen focus

A mistake can be either an opportunity to eradicate or an occasion to educate. It’s our choice.

Journal Entry: In your role(s) as: manager, employee, spouse, parent, coach, team members, or big kid on the playground: How will you decide to show up when someone makes a mistake which causes a problem for you in your leadership and life?

A wise man’s heart guides his decisions and his lips promote instruction. Proverbs 16:23

*Note: I am aware that “Teamliness” is not a Webster approved word. Lighten up. Be hopeful.

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