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365 Ways to Get Results: Day #52: Vulnerability – From Delusion to Solution

We wonder why the employees we manage or the children we parent or the people we love do not seem to listen or care about what we have to say. The reason is actually very easy to understand and once understood – to remedy.

The Delusion

Often we operate in a delusion. We shut off our own vulnerability to understanding what they truly need or how we can better serve them because we are focused on ourselves and not them. We do not prioritize caring about people as much as we care about getting what we want. Then we justify our own negative behavior toward them by viewing them almost as inanimate objects – as if we HAVE to treat them impersonally because they deserve it. Does this make them want to perform better for us the way inspired and engaged people do? No.

The Delusion and Your Children

Think about it – You want your teenage child, whose grades are less than adequate, to do his homework so you tell him he better do it or he is going to get bad grades, not get into a good college and will not be a success. Makes sense, right? Makes sense to you but not to him. He hears you say, “You get bad grades, will never go to a good college and will end up a loser.” Ugh! Do you think he cares what you think when you think he is a loser? Of course not. So he tunes you out for being overbearing, negative, and critical. He then under-performs to control the situation and get back at you. And subsequently do you end up feeling overbearing, negative, critical not to mention ineffective? Yep. So consequentially he is justified in his feelings about you and you are justified in your feelings about where he is going to end up. Everyone is living a delusion because of course he could do his homework and go to a good school and be a success. And of course your leading qualities are not to be overbearing, negative and critical. You can only control your role in any delusion.

Could it be that as parents sometimes we want our children to perform well so that we can feel good about it? As a manager do we sometimes want our employees to perform well so that we will look good? In relationships do we sometimes want or loved ones to make us feel loved and appreciated so that we are happy? Yes. That is human nature. So how do we get there? By caring about them as people first and ourselves second. That is what makes us truly human – to care about others in a way we would never care about an object – to care about them before ourselves. So when we do not see people as people but mere objects for our own good, we have betrayed ourselves.

You might say to your son, “I love you and want to help you feel good about doing your homework. Can I help you organize your homework or get some special tools to help you?” He’ll of course look at you as if you have three heads. You’ll continue, “You said that you like business. I’d like for us to visit a friend of mine who is an investment advisor together so that you can ask him questions about what he does. I think it might be really interesting for both of us.” At this point he’ll be waiting for the catch. “How about next Monday after school? I’ll leave work early.”

The Delusion and Your Employees

Think about how this plays out in work. You think you care about your employees or your colleagues. You don’t micro-manage them nor are you demanding. You give them little gifts at holidays. You occasionally ask them about their children. Yet they don’t seem to care about the company or worse yet helping you to look good. They don’t really have your back. Your Delusion – So therefore they are lazy and ungrateful and don’t deserve for you to provide opportunities for them to learn and grow.

Your colleagues notice that all you seem to focus on is your work. You don’t even know the names of some of their spouses and you never talk about helping them learn anything new. And you don’t keep them informed on what the vision is for their area. Their Delusion – Therefore you are a work-a-holic with no life who doesn’t care about them or whether or not they move up in the company so why should they work hard for you?

What the Delusion Costs You

End Result – As a manager, your area is not as productive as it needs to be. As employees, their work is unfulfilling. This leads to high attrition, employee disengagement and low productivity. All of these boil down to lost money and purpose for all involved – the business loses money and the manager and the employees don’t advance.

As an individual you disallow the richness of intimacy that comes from being fully vulnerable when you are trapped in this delusion. If you are truly vulnerable to the feelings of others you open yourself to whatever they may say as you as you investigate with compassionate questions about what they really need or are thinking. You don’t feel compelled to defend yourself. You listen. You may be hurt by their responses. Yes, and with vulnerability you may feel excruciating pain, abandonment and rejection. But this openness is also the origin of fulfillment, belonging, happiness and love. You have to risk it to build a healthy work culture and a healthy personal life.

The Solution to Delusion

Stop betraying yourself by seeing those around you as a means to your own fulfillment. I am a fan of visualization techniques. Look hard at the faces of the people close to you in your office, your close relationships and your life and ask yourself if you value them as a person or as an inanimate object. Are you living a delusion of self-betrayal by detaching from them because you perceive they don’t deserve better? And has the repetitive nature of your choices brought any better engagement from your staff, colleagues and loved ones? Try seeing the people you lead and care about as small children who need guidance. Envision what they would look like as a seven-year-old. Be curious. Be compassionate. Ask questions. Guide with concern. Have the courage to reach out with compassion and be vulnerable. Share your weaknesses. Share your weaknesses. Share how you’ve drawn on your strengths to overcome you own challenges as you coach the people you care about. Every time you interact with the people close to you, envision them as children who need a helping hand, who need guidance, who need love. Then watch them change their behavior and notice how you feel enriched. Start now!

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Mary Lee Gannon is the president of StartingOverNow.com – Leading Productivity Solutions for People and Organizations. With more than 16 years of experience as a CEO of organizations with up to $26 million in assets, Mary Lee consults with businesses on strategy. She is a graduate of The Duquesne University Professional Coaching Program and an alumnus of the 2010 Harvard Medical School and McLean Hospital Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference. Her personal urnaround came as a stay-at-home mother with four children under seven-years-old who endured a divorce that took she and the children from the country club life to public assistance from where she earned success to support her family. Services include: Workshops, Meeting Facilitation, Coaching, Webinars, Speaking and Management Consulting. Areas of Specialty: Strategic Planning / Board Development / Healthcare / Public Relations / Goal Setting / Meeting Facilitation / Training / Leadership / Time Management / Life/Career Transition. Her book “Starting Over – 25 Rules for When You’ve Bottomed Out” is available in bookstores or at Amazon. Get her FREE ebook – “Grow Productivity – A Leader’s Toolbox” on her web site at www.StartingOverNow.com.