The art of truly caring for others is indeed, an art. In our work helping others practice TRP our observation is that genuine care requires a deep focus on the other person. Genuine care also requires that the deep focus be of greater importance, than our own needs and desires. Obviously so, right? It turns out, it’s not so obvious after all.
A common mistake is that we think our well-intended offers to help someone else are really, truly, all about the other person. We often overlook that under the surface, we secretly want something in return, or we simply are uncomfortable with the fact that they are uncomfortable, or we would much rather ‘keep the peace’ than deal with the difficulty at hand.
The deep level of care might include doing everything in our power to empower one other person to be successful. Sometimes it might include NOT doing something. A story from a recent training illustrates.
A participant had written her plan to help her son grow in his own level of self-responsibility. During the training, she took the opportunity to share her plan with her colleagues.
“I have been enabling my son by making excuses for him. He is a talented young man and is a star on his high school team. With his busy schedule and need to balance his advanced classes and athletics, he often forgets his sports equipment. I’m usually the first person he calls. I’ll make excuses for him, and I’ve even left work to make the 45-minute round trip drive home, to his school, and back to work with his equipment just to ‘help’ him out. All the while, I make excuses for him, citing to myself and sometimes others, how busy he is and how much pressure he is under. My husband has told me not to do it for him, but I make excuses for him to my husband too.”
She was determined to do it differently. She shared how the next time this happened, she would not make excuses for him. She would simply go get the equipment and tell him he needs to remember it himself.
Nervous laughter followed. She could not quite understand why her colleagues didn’t give any approving applause… One colleague said, “you’re going to keep rescuing him by getting his stuff for him?” She was conflicted and didn’t know what to do.
At this point, she was asked,
“Which would have a greater impact on your son: having you talk with him about the importance of remembering his equipment, or the coach removing him from a game because he forgot?”
She had a flash of awareness and forcefully stood up. She saw that it was really her own discomfort that was getting in the way. Once she thought about what her son truly needed from her, it all became clear. With trembling voice, she said “I see! I’m not going to enable him anymore! He needs to experience the consequence of his actions, and I have prevented him from doing this!” She teared up as she made this powerful statement and this time, she got that applause.
As each of us seeks to express that level of deep care, be emboldened by the potential of those we care about. Focus on that potential and allow it to matter more than our own needs and desires. Is it easy? Not necessarily. Is it worth it? Absolutely!
Blame is an easy out, a quick solution to almost any problem. The irony is, blame solves nothing. Most of us blame others to get out of having to take responsibility, or in attempt to make ourselves look “faultless”. In the end, blame just results in more time talking about a problem instead of really solving it.
That may be why the miraculous cave rescue in Thailand captivated the world’s attention. The effort to accomplish the impossible rescue mission itself was a testament to the human spirit, and a remarkable example of TRP. There was deep collaboration and care demonstrated in many, many ways. The absence of blame is perhaps best seen in the exchange between the coach and the parents.
In case you were in a cave yourself for the last couple of weeks, there is a great recap of the story here. Twelve boys, members of the “Wild Boar” soccer team and their coach, “Coach Ek” were trapped in flooded cave for over two weeks until a dramatic rescue brought them back to safety. It turns out that cave exploration was one of the ways that Coach Ek worked with the boys to build a sense of team. The boys found meaning in the challenge of exploring the cave together. The coach had no idea how important that would become when they could not escape and grew to depend on that sense of team for their own survival.
Huddled in a dark cave without food, water, or even knowledge they would ever escape, Coach focused the boys on breathing and meditation. He kept them going, and kept them unified as a team, moment by moment. When they were found nine days later and the hope of rescue began to shine, however dimly, Coach Ek probably began to face an inner struggle. He felt deeply responsible for all that had transpired.
When he had the opportunity to write a note to the parents while awaiting rescue, this is what he said:
The parents had wrapped themselves in patience and prayer, lending whatever silent support they could to the massive humanitarian mission. Their response, was as TRP as the coach’s letter:
There was no blame to pass around. The world will not forget the image from the first video captured by British divers who found the boys, of 13 young men in total, cheerful and bright after nine days in utter darkness and fully alone. Their resilient attitude reflects their own deep sense of team, developed with help from their coach, and forged in that flooded cave. What the coach and the players may not fully appreciate, is just how much hope their story has given to the world.
How different this story might have been had there not been such cooperation from all involved both inside and outside of the cave. There are many heroes in this story and many lessons to take away. Just one is the absence of blame. It’s easy to blame things outside of ourselves but this story illustrates the powerful impact that every choice we make can have on the world around us.
Lately, we’ve been doing more and more work helping teams face the obstacles in their path – see our new “Raise the OFLAG” program. Too often, we think the problem we face is external, something “out there.” At TRP, our skill is to help teams look at what the opportunity for learning and growth is, “in here.” Looking at what we can change (instead of what we can’t), is deeply rewarding, if not easy. We get to hear amazing stories in this process. For example, while working with a client this past week, we asked our participants to reflect on this question:
What is a setback that you have experienced in life, which turned out to be a hidden opportunity for learning and growth (an O-FLAG)?
A remarkable answer came from a female participant, about 40 years old. She shared that about eight years ago she filed for divorce from a man who turned out to be not who he appeared to be when they married. It had taken her years to develop the courage to make the move to end the marriage. Her young daughter at the time, was seven years old which made the decision all the more difficult for her. She had very little money, and the divorce left her with almost nothing. To make ends meet, she realized something drastic would be required of her.
She held a yard sale and sold nearly everything she owned. She was left with no possessions, but was able to take the money she made and start a new life. For a short time, she and her daughter actually lived in her car before her parents ended up taking them both in. It took the better part of the year, but slowly she got back on her feet. Today she is a proud home-owner, single mother to a teenage daughter, and working for an employer in a job she truly enjoys. She went on to describe all the good things that had come out of that challenging chapter in her life and how she looks back on it as one of the best things that could have happened to her. It was a profound opportunity for learning and growth.
Her fellow participants sat in awe of this tale, you could feel their admiration. When she finished, I asked her, “What do you think your daughter learned from that period of life that the two of you shared together?” She paused only for a moment before replying: “I believe that my daughter learned, that no matter what is presented to us in life, we have the strength to see our way through it.”
Her answer came with the clarity of one who has sold all she had, lived in her car, and found through all of that, what she is truly made of.
Perhaps for each of us there have been events that appeared to be a “setback” and over time, we made meaning of that event. Or perhaps there are challenges that lay ahead, their significance yet to be uncovered. Our task is to discover the hidden opportunity for learning and growth that waits within.
We recently interviewed a department director in preparation for a TRP training. We asked her to describe her management team. The following story about one of her long-time managers (we'll call her Sandy) inspired this TRP post.
Sandy has been with us for over twenty years. I just had a review with her and right at the beginning she said, "We've come a long way, haven't we?"
Let me explain. Her comment was a testament to the mutual respect we have for one another.
When I joined the company fifteen years ago Sandy began reporting to me. I greatly misjudged her at first. I did not realize how much she knew. I thought she was too passive and "just along for the ride". She did not speak up when I thought she should assert her authority over her team members.
What I began to see was her quiet strength. She is not afraid of a confrontation, quite the opposite! More than anyone I've ever worked with, she knows just when to step in, and when it is best to let others work it out. She's a true servant leader and she has been an outstanding manager.
Have you ever misjudged someone else's strength, and perhaps perceived it as a flaw? Taking the time to see what's under the surface of our colleagues is one of the most rewarding investments we can make. The strengths of our team members are often hidden in plain sight. Taking a genuine interest in someone else means going beyond what we might find interesting about them. It's so much deeper than that.
One of Dale Carnegie's rules from over 80 years ago in How to Win Friends and Influence People is just as relevant today:
"Regardless of the physical or financial assets an organization may have, it's the people who make it successful. They are an organization's key asset, and getting to know them should be as high a priority as learning the technical aspects of one's job. The key is to be genuine. Don't get a reputation for only being interested when you want something, getting to know others should always be mutually beneficial."
At TRP Enterprises we're continually developing new ways to help people work together. The Circles of Collaboration is a new tool for teams and organizations to see the positive qualities that each bring to any project, and use those positive qualities for deep collaboration and truly meaningful work. To learn more, come join us this summer for one of our Managing Change workshops.
Perhaps one of the most rewarding things that I do as a facilitator, is prepare other trainers to deliver the Totally Responsible Person training programs. Just last month I conducted a train the trainer program for a client in California, and next month my team will do it again from our home offices in Winston-Salem, NC. We run train the trainer programs several times a year and I cannot sleep in the days leading up to it - I have so much energy!
For me, as a lifelong practitioner of TRP, my practice is to "walk the talk," and demonstrate what being a Totally Responsible Person is all about. I do this in my daily routine both at work and at home. While I'm far from perfect, the effort to take personal responsibility for ALL my actions, words, and thoughts is such a good challenge. I find that both my "misses" and my successes on this journey give me great stories that I often weave into my delivery of TRP programs.
Likewise, the incredible people who come to our train the trainer program to get certified to teach TRP have great stories. Helping them discover the power in those stories is like mining for gold. It's usually just under the surface and with a little effort, we uncover something of value that they can pass along in ways that have meaning and impact for others.
Stories become teaching tools
For example, a recently certified trainer from one of our programs shared a powerful story from his first career as a young supervisor. Rather than coach a struggling employee, he protected her. He didn't want to hurt her feelings by pointing out her performance issues. He ended up protecting her to the point of a crisis and ultimately needing to terminate her. It pains him to this day that he could have helped her, but he didn't. He learned from that lesson and became a great manager, never making that same mistake again. After going through the train the trainer program, he will use that story as a powerful, cautionary tale, when he trains other young supervisors in TRP. His story is now serving a purpose and helping others.
The stories that TRP trainers tell are windows into their potential. The stories are about both their mistakes and their successes. TRP training gives them a platform for those stories to come to life in ways that others can learn from.
What's your story?
I'm gearing up for our March 12 - 14 TRP train the trainer program in Winston-Salem and cannot wait to help a new group of trainers shape their stories into the powerful teaching tools they will be.
My boys are new to Cub Scouts. They love it. They love the uniform, the new friends, and the sense of belonging to an important, mission-driven organization. Next week, our Pack has an outing planned. It's a hike in a nearby state park known for its incredible views of the valleys in the foothills of North Carolina. In preparation for the hike, the boys are responsible for packing all the required "gear". Here is where it gets interesting...
One of my sons, ever the planner, quickly created his own checklist and dutifully went about the house gathering all the gear for himself, and for his older brother. He'd check it off the list, and assemble it in the closet. The hike is more than ten days away; he just loves to plan. My older son is more spontaneous and checklists... well, they don't come naturally to him. Watching their completely different approaches to life events is humorous, and it also gives me pause to reflect.
So much of life is just about showing up. If we don't make the effort to be there, life carries on without us. Whether we are a planner, or an improviser, we still need to make the effort to show up.
I was recently talking with a client about putting a training program together. We are not in the same part of the country, so coordinating was all done by emails and phone calls. What kept happening was emails would go un-replied to and phone calls un-returned... not necessarily any one person's fault, it was more a result of the number of people involved who were all very busy. After lots of back and forth, I offered that I would "show up" at their office one morning. This involved a lengthy flight and a couple of days away. However, my "showing up" was reason enough to get all the right people together at the right time, to make business happen.
On the flight home, I reflected on what we would have missed if we had continued to haphazardly exchange emails and voicemails for several more weeks. The deal might have fallen through and the important training project, which benefits everyone involved, would have most likely been delayed or suspended.
In the end, it wasn't the preparation, or the spontaneity that was important. Indeed, I needed to do both! What really mattered, was making the effort to be there, to show up. Learning to recognize those moments and seize upon them is a result of paying attention, and often requires putting in that little bit of extra effort. That effort often seems to be the thing that we think that maybe we really don't want or need to do. But it's often that very thing that makes the magic happen.
How often does life pass us by while we wait for what's next? Show up, do it today. Be delighted in the results... and then do it all over again.
"Yet another promising employee has been let go. He just couldn't seem to make it to work on time. Management gave him every opportunity to succeed and he blew it. On top of that, we had an employee leave last week after only having been here six months. It seems she thought there was a greener pasture for her somewhere else.
So here we go again. Same amount of work and two less people to share the load. What is it we're doing wrong?"
Sound familiar? That is what we call adversity. The good news is, we all face adversity. It's not the killer of dreams. It's the beckoning call to wake up from the wishful thinking that believes life should be easy. Adversity begs us to discover our strengths and unleash them in exemplary ways. Adversity is a teacher.
We recently consulted with an agency that delivers affordable housing solutions to those in need. This agency is at the leading edge of adversity. Many of their clients are living in harsh realities where every day is a struggle. The agency must manage the adversity that their clients bring in to their offices every day... and not get too caught up in it themselves. The beauty of it is, they are learning to see such adversity as a great teacher.
The new training tools we have developed at TRP are here to help each of us look at adversity from a different point of view. The key ingredient to discovering that point of view?
Respect the adversity that others face. And yet, know it is their struggle and not ours. Respect their ability to persevere and to be triumphant. Offer resources and help where appropriate, allowing respect to be the guide.
When it comes to the adversity that each of us face, respect it. It's not the adversity itself, it's the opportunity that it is providing us with. There are powerful aspects of ourselves that we have yet to discover. As Michelangelo said, "Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it." Be the sculptor and with chisel in hand, discover that power within.
As president, Daniel leads the team at TRP Enterprises to help inspire and uplift through world-class training programs.