At a recent client retreat with the middle management of a company, the group expressed frustration about their senior management team not listening to them. Our facilitator helped them capture their irritations, and identify the top few items.
"There is a big problem with communication with senior management!" one participant declared.
"I can see that," the facilitator replied. "Seems like you haven't been communicating very well with them about your frustrations."
With another team, we asked the senior leadership team to capture what they most appreciated about the CEO, and also how the CEO could do a better job. When the list was finished, we told them, "Looks like you have set pretty high standards for yourself."
"What? These are what we want from our CEO."
"Yes, and of course you wouldn't ask anything of him that you wouldn't do yourself, right?"
The participants paused to reflect.
I find it very easy to set expectations for others, and get annoyed when others don't meet my standards. It's common human practice to first blame someone else when things don't go our way. Of course it's so much easier to see shortcomings in others than in myself! Have you ever felt in the same?
Allow me to share some examples from personal experience:
When I was putting together a training class on effective meetings, I realized I hadn't followed all of my own standards that I was suggesting. Luckily, I noticed and was able to update the session to put my suggestions into practice for the class!
In a friendly email discussion, a friend sent me a warning and said that the 'so-called peaceful majority' of a certain religion needs to stand up to extremists. I reflected that I don't do anything to address extremists in my own (broader) faith group, so it seems unfair to expect this of others. I asked him, "So what are you doing to stand up to extremists in your own religion?" Another pause to think.
It is easy for me to look at what I think other people should do, especially when something goes wrong. I find it helpful to look at my own actions and motivations before I blame someone else and tell them what to do. It's a powerful question to ask: "Am I holding myself to the same standards I am expecting of others?"
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