Thursday, June 29, 2017

Always Room for Improvement

"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."

Winston Churchill


Imagine an ideal world where everyone cooperates and lives in perfect harmony.

I sense a long pause.  This dream seems impossible, doesn’t it?   Our self-centered egos are the problem. We allow our ideals to interfere without giving any thought to others’ ideals.  As self-seeking and goal-achieving individuals, we need to stop for one minute to evaluate what is important in our lives.  We need to take stock of our inventory, the people involved in our lives and businesses.  Winston Churchill’s quote shifts our paradigm to see the reality.  We may be profitable in the business sense but are we profitable in our relationships?

Strong, deep-meaningful relationships are desired by everyone; however, attaining that depth requires mutual work and commitment between us. People are emotional beings seeking love and respect.  Relationships don’t just happen. A quick method for the ideal relationship only magically appears in fiction books.  

For the most part, our willingness to cooperate may occur only when situations are in our favor on our terms.  Our reluctance to compromise can stir up embedded emotions and resentments which are counteractive to building sound relationships.   We are quick to point fingers at the perceived flaws of others.  They are stubborn, easily angered, and manipulative but we fail to look closely at our own flaws.  We assume we are right in our thinking.  What we may think is our greatest strength might very well be seen as our greatest weakness by others.  I could be the most goal-focused determined individual but taken to an extreme, I can be seen as very controlling.


That’s why John C. Maxwell’s book, Winning with People, is so helpful.  His teaching based on twenty-five principles helps to examine our motives in five different areas:

q The Readiness Question: Are We Prepared for Relationships?

q The Connection Question:  Are We Willing to Focus on Others?

q The Trust Question:  Can We Build Mutual Trust?

q The Investment Question:  Are We Willing to Invest in Others?

q The Synergy Question:  Can We Create A Win-Win Relationship?

I think you would agree that our desire and attempts to “fix” others never works in our favor. Study after study, quote after quote, says we must first “focus and fix” ourselves.   Whether we are dealing with our own perception of any given situation, our attitude towards another person, or our own action and reaction, looking at our behavior provides us with beneficial insight for growth and change.

Let’s learn how by taking a peek at one of John’s principles, The Hammer Principle. This one got my attention. John writes, “Never Use a Hammer to Swat a Fly Off Someone’s Head.”

John’s willingness to share his inappropriate approach to dealing with conflict early in his marriage helps us learn from him and reflect on our own behavior.  He claimed he always made sure he won every argument with his wife, Margaret, until Margaret finally sat him down, shared her feelings and explained what his approach was doing to their relationship.    

John wrote: 

From that day I decided to change. Realizing that having the right attitude was more important than having the right answers, I softened my approach, listened more, and stopped making a big deal out of little things.  In time, the wall that had begun to form came down, and we began building bridges.  And since that time, I’ve made a conscious effort to initiate connection anytime I’m in conflict with someone I care about.

Our words have the ability to either build people up or to tear them down.  You can see the effects a hammer can have on any relationship.  If you see the other person or the situation as the nail, you will use a hammer to strike a solution.  A hammer approach is harsh and domineering, an inappropriate method to build a relationship.  The choice is ours to evaluate our preferred approach:  one which creates a peaceful harmonious conversation or a hostile one. 

The best part about the book, Winning with People, is that we are not left stranded.  John is quick to share the principles, point out the problems, provide plausible solutions, and offer self-assessment questions.  In this chapter on the Hammer Principle, he delivers six different approaches to trading in your hammer for a velvet glove. His wisdom is a gift we can give to ourselves and our loved ones.

If your family business is having various challenges, you can choose to discuss one principle at your weekly business meetings until all twenty-five principles have been reviewed.  Once you have gone through the book, you can repeat the process. Because new situations keep occurring, reading, sharing and discussing allows the principles to become part of your everyday interaction with others.  The principles help us learn from our mistakes, utilize the ongoing training with everyday challenges, and develop stronger family relationships.    

If you are constantly confronting people and facing strong resistance, Winning with People provides insightful knowledge and skills to create the change in us and in our relationships with others. When we make a conscious effort to improve our relationships with family and friends, then we make a life by what we give as Winston Churchill so wisely proclaimed.

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