Working For versus Fighting Against

By Edith Samouillet de Gomez, President and Founder of Turning points LLC

Many of our communication attempts fail because it is more important to us to be right than to really be successful in our communication. It’s an ego thing.

And so the question is which is more important and effective: keeping an ongoing relationship or being right no matter what?

Our world is full of things to fight against, such as unwelcome events, gossip, toxic relationships, misinformation, aggressiveness, dramas…

In fact, it requires a huge amount of energy to “fight against”. That is the energy that we could be using for a better purpose, the purpose of “working for”. But what does “working for” mean?

“Working for” means using our energy to let emerge what is best in us; whatever the obstacle or threat is. The only power we have is over ourselves, and that creates a very useful skill we can utilize called Unconditional Positive Regard. How can I embrace the threat and turn it into an opportunity for my own good and purpose, and also ultimately for the good of the whole?  It is the opposite of judgment, and it is one most useful leadership skills I know. Judgment stops the relationship. When I put my energy into being right I am stuck in my own world. I automatically reject the other person’s world; I generate more opposition, even rejection and aggressiveness.

Let us take an example. A few years ago I was the general manager of an organization in Europe, with which I regularly worked with trade unions. People who have been involved in doing business in Europe, and particularly in France, know that dealing with representatives can sometimes be painful and threatening. It happens that within my function, I had to deal with a representative who was very aggressive and non-cooperative. We had to put in place a new state regulation within the organization and we were supposed to cooperate. It was pretty difficult for me as I had no other choice than to be successful! So we had our first meeting and I decided to use the leadership skills I had been taught; especially listening and Unconditional Positive Regard.  As soon as we entered our meeting, the representative started to complain about the law and the fact that we had to apply it to the organization. My first decision was to listen to her and reformulate what she said. I wanted to understand her and get all the information I needed to make sure we would be able to move forward. As the threat level rose because of her extreme opposition, I chose to use Unconditional Positive Regard: 

She said: The employees don’t want this law in our organization!

Me: I believe you.

Her: Silence.

Me: Do you want to tell me more?

Her: I am not here as a person. I represent the employees!

Me: I understand you are the elected person in charge of the representation of the other employees.

Her: Yes!

Me: Please, can you tell me more about what the employees say?

Her: They disagree with the law.

Me: Thank you for sharing this with me. Please, can you tell me more about this disagreement?

Her: If they have to work less, they will be paid less!

Me: What you tell me is that they are afraid to lose money with the new law?

Her: Yes!

Me: I believe you.

Her: Silence.

Me:  I intend to put this law in place and I would like to do it with you. Do you want that?

Her: No. Eh…maybe.

Me: Do you have any suggestions?

Her: I don’t know…Do you really want my suggestions?

Me: Yes, I do. I can do this without you but that is not what I want.  I believe it is in the interest of the employees that we work together. I am very interested in your suggestions.

Her: Ok. We can try but I need to think about it.

Me: Ok. When can we meet again this week and at what time?

Her: Silence as she looks at her calendar. Friday at 10 a.m.

Me: Thank you very much. I’ll see you on Friday.

We worked like this for several weeks and we were finally able to find an acceptable  solution for both parties: the organization and the employees, and all in compliance with the law!

Once again, “working for “instead of “fighting against” drive you to much better results!

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