The art of saying sorry, or the art of forgiveness - I'm not sure which is harder? They are both hard in my book, and both require different skills as well as a certain level of self awareness and emotional intelligence. They both appeal to our inner, dignified sense of pride as well as our our aversion to injustice.
On the weekend I took my sons to my nephew's birthday party at GoJump trampoline park in Shepparton. This is the IDEAL party destination according to my boys whom are 12 and 13 y/o. The one slight drawback this weekend however, was that my 12 y/o Riley broke his hand last Thursday, so was not in peak physical fitness. Jumping would have been a risk to his own health, as well as a risk to GoJump's insurance policy no doubt!
Upon arrival the centre owner/manager greeted Riley and immediately noticed his cast and delivered the bad news - he wouldn't be jumping because of risk of further injury to himself. Riley accepted this because he was pretty much expecting it, however standing there and watching his brother, cousins and friends have a ball was a challenge. Early in the piece he snuck on to a trampoline and did a quick backflip (he is well versed in backflips) I was there and saw it, as did the centre manager who rushed over. Since Riley had deliberately defied his request I was expecting quite a razzing. Instead, he put his hand on Riley's shoulder and said some kind words to him along the lines of "mate, I know it must be hard, but you REALLY need to stay off the trampolines." He then asked Riley all about his injury, how it had happened etc. and complimented Riley saying that he recognised him and knew he was a good jumper from visits we had made to GoJump in the past. The talk was enough to completely convert Riley. He didn't even think about getting on a trampoline for the rest of the party because he felt acknowledged, understood, valued and affirmed by the manager. Not only did Riley not want to disappoint him in the future, he felt bad and sorry for defying him in the first place.
No matter who your team is - whether it's your family, your colleagues, whether you are in business, manage staff, deal with customers etc - having an approach to those you have authority over, like the approach the GoJump manager used, will be an asset to you. Rather than wielding power by inciting FEAR, you can wield power by inciting LOYALTY. Loyalty will give you return on your investment time and time again.
Let's step through this scenario one positive point at a time:
1. GRACIOUS ATTITUDE. The centre manager (would have been smart of me to know his name, it would have been polite, not to mention made this article shorter!) was within his rights to be angry with Riley and chastise him to a certain degree. Who knows if these thoughts went through his mind, but instead he focused on understanding Riley's needs and motivations and the reasons behind his behaviour. Understanding these didn't excuse Riley's behaviour, or suddenly make it ok, rather it gave the manager a platform to speak to Riley about it - he conveyed a firm message and it was successfully received.
2. FOCUS ON ACHIEVING THE DESIRED OUTCOME rather than focusing on who's right and who's wrong. It's easy to feel dignified self-righteousness when someone has wronged you. Suffering injustice is one of the toughest things in life. Pointing out how right you are and how wrong someone else is - even though it might be true - is likely to cause a defensive reaction and only delay you from sorting out the problem.
3. A SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS - showing this, even before someone has acknowledged their wrong doing or apologised, takes character strength. Yet, if you want to lead your team to productive outcomes, it's a quality that will serve you well. Expect and assume the best from your people - particularly if they have given you no reason in the past to expect the worst. Deal with the worst, only when you are sure this is the worst and you have no other option.
4. MAKE MUTUAL RESPECT ONE OF YOUR DESIRED OUTCOMES (as opposed to the desired outcome of having people in awe, fear or trepidation of how powerful and mighty you are.) Not only did the centre manager focus on curbing Riley's behaviour - jumping when it wasn't safe - he fostered another desired outcome, a RELATIONSHIP CONNECTION. Creating a genuine relationship connection is future thinking. Future thinkers are proactive and don't focus solely on this one problem right here (nor do they focus on making themselves look powerful or mighty), but they use this opportunity to instil safeguards that will prevent problems from happening again. Relationship connection - feeling understood, acknowledged, valued and affirmed - is a safeguard against many problems in the future. Relationship connection fosters mutual respect and loyalty.
5. BE GENEROUS. Doing all of the above is being generous. The centre manager took it the next step with Riley. When I ordered Riley and I a hot drink to help us enjoy passing the time, he upgraded Riley's to the next biggest size and gave him extra marshmallows for free! A small, but again significant gesture, that showed Riley this guy was genuinely feeling for him, understanding it was difficult having to sit on the sidelines.
At the conclusion of the party I was immensely proud of my 12 y/o. He said to me while we were sipping our drinks "Mum I feel bad for jumping when he told me not to." We talked about the best and right thing to do and Riley decided he wanted to say sorry and thankyou (I do drum into my kids about the importance of saying sorry, and acknowledging our mistakes, so a fair bit of back work ie. years! had gone into setting the context for that conversation!) I'm also a firm believer in teaching my kids to own their decisions and not "helicoptering" over them orchestrating their every move. If they believe they need to do something, they should do it, and if they don't they can suffer the consequences of not. So I left Riley to tend to his business while I went to round up the other kids. I watched from a distance as Riley approached the counter and offered a left handed hand shake (his right hand was out of action!) and there was an exchange of words. Riley told me later that he said all he needs to say, and used the actual word "sorry" (it's very important to say it and not skirt around trying to pretty our mistakes up).
This Mama couldn't be prouder of the growing men in her household. She also thanks the centre manager at GoJump in Shepparton for the way he handled himself with her son. This professional acknowledges the GoJump manager for the example he sets to his team of staff, and encourages all of her readers to consider taking the same approach with their team. Watch the positive outcomes start rolling in!