Leaders Learn, Forgive, and Move On

At first, I was worried. Might she have been in an accident? Taken ill?

Ten minutes after the time our coffee meetup was supposed to start, a horrible thought leapt into my mind. Had I gotten the date or time or place wrong? A frantic scroll through sent emails confirmed I was in the right place, right day, and right time.

I called her. She’d forgotten about our get-together. Forgotten. It had been her idea to meet.

Hurt, I finished my latte and watched others as they huddled over their coffees at the small tables, engaged in conversation. With people who showed up, shouted the little voice in head. Hurt was replaced with a low simmer of anger that lingered across the day.

"Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner."                   
~Lao Tzu

Come morning, I wasn’t mad at her anymore. I was centered on what her forgetting said about me. Perhaps she didn’t mention rescheduling because she’d decided I wasn’t important or interesting enough to meet with? That self-defeating thought bubbled up now and again over the next several days.

Just give it a rest, will you? Implored the little voice. You’re giving this non-issue too much air time.

The little voice was right. I was making something personal that wasn’t. I was giving entirely too much power to a stranger. I had no control over her forgetting; however, I did have complete control over how I responded to her forgetting.

I called her and suggested we reschedule. When we met, she thanked me for reaching out. She said she couldn’t bring herself to call me. She said she was too embarrassed and ashamed for behaving badly. She said she thought she was better than that, but obviously, she wasn’t.

Isn’t it ironic how both of us had turned the focus back onto our self-perceived failings and short-comings? Fascinating.

Ever the one to look for teachable moments, I found seven of them in this situation:
  1. Don’t jump to conclusions. Get the facts; test assumptions; and clarify, clarify, clarify before deciding you have the answer, know the reason, etc.
  2. Not everything is about you, so don’t unnecessarily give your power away.
  3. Consider the situation from the perspective of the other person; seek first to understand.
  4. Don’t conflate the behavior with the person. There are times when all good people behave badly.
  5. Self-worth comes from the inside out, not the outside in. Don’t be so quick to sell yourself short.
  6. Talk it out.
  7. Forgive, let go, move on.

We’re all human. That means we construct our view of reality through our personal filters, experiences, values, and beliefs. That means being eternally vigilant to not make everything about us.

"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly."
Jim Rohn

Being an effective leader requires that we get out of our own perspective so we can connect with others and see theirs. That’s when success happens.