Here’s the question I hate more than any other: “Will you do me a favor?” This question is especially tough when it comes from someone I’m close to, because, well, yes, I would love to do you a favor. So my reflexive answer is “yes”, or “sure”, or something affirmative like that.
Now I’ve made a promise. With my yes still ringing in the air, here comes the request: Can you drive me two hours to the airport? Or will you lend me $100? Or will you come over and spend 8 hours helping me figure out my computer? My preferred answer to all of these requests is NO. All of these requests are really outside of my abilities or time available or better judgment.
At this point, I have a couple of choices. Weasel my way out of the promise or just do it because I said I would. I did all of these because I said I would. Groan. There must be a better way.
Think about how you make promises for a minute. How often do you make a promise that you would rather not fulfill or cannot fulfill once you realize the entirety of the situation? How far have you gone to “keep your word”? If you are like most people, making a promise can be an almost sacred contract.
You will do anything to keep your word.
But what if keeping your word is ultimately the wrong thing to do?What happens if you discover that things have changed, you did not have all the information or you made the promise in error. That happens.
What if you are keeping your word simply because you don’t know how to break a promise? Now what?
This is almost the exact situation one of my clients recently experienced. He had decided to leave his company for a new one, and was ready for a move to a new city and exciting job. The day he was to sign a lease on a new apartment, his existing company made him an offer to stay.
He had not played one company against another, so the offer was a huge surprise to him. His original employer had done a reorganization and realized he was the most qualified person for a newly created role. Having him stay was far and away the best solution. When he heard the offer, he was delightfully surprised--- and then he remembered all the consequences.
His biggest dilemma was dealing with the string of promises that he had made, the biggest of which was to the new employer, who was counting on having a position filled. (In a nice job, but not his dream job.)
He also had to talk to his wife and of course, there was that apartment expecting to fill an empty unit. He is such a man of his word that he almost declined. Breaking promises is not in his repertoire. Keeping his promises meant he would have missed the exact job he would create for himself in a perfect world.
So we talked about how to break a promise. Without having to “weasel.”
Our first step was to clear his conscience. Could he honestly say that he was not angling to play one company against another? No – but he feared that it would LOOK that way. It was important to just be honest and stay grounded.
The second step was to look at what changed his mind. Was it cold feet? Nope. He was dealing with a completely different set of facts than the ones that drove him to seek the new job.
Then we looked at the scenarios. Yes, he could keep his word, move his family, start working with a new team and then what? How much would he wonder what could have been?
Or he could break his promise and stay with the newly created position. The decision was clear: he needed to break his promise, and it was very important to him that he not “weasel his way out” of it.
So we explored his approach. The first question: What could he do to minimize the damage done by him not fulfilling his promise? He came up with several thoughts on how he could leverage his network to help them fill the position.
With those questions completed, he was ready to have the conversation, with a clear conscience and a position of strength vs feeling like he was “weaseling”. He also was aware that he was not the first person ever on the planet to step away from a job acceptance.
The conversation went so much better than expected. The second employer was both gracious and committed to staying in touch with him.
And there was more. The second-choice candidate had REALLY wanted the job and was sorely disappointed in not being chosen.
This broken promise paved the way for two people’s dreams to be realized.
Sometimes promises must be broken. When the facts change, when the situation gets rearranged, when our capabilities change or sometimes, when our clear thinking finally comes on-line.
Breaking promises doesn’t make us a weasel – as long as we do our part to own the decision and ameliorate the damage.
And before we make that bold promise to do our friend or loved one a favor? Get more information on the request. It will save you countless hours of fulfilling the automatic yes!
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Over the last week, I finally transitioned to a new computer. I had been putting it off because I knew I had some old software that might not work on the new machine. Plus changing computers is hard, even when Apple does their best to make it easy.
Well, it was NOT easy and that’s how things got charged. Yet what could have been a miserable experience turned out ok, because I decided to let the charging cable just be a charging cable. Let me explain.
When I opened the box, I immediately realized that none of the cables I owned would fit in this machine. Not. One. Single. Cable. That would have been handy to know during the purchase process. Score a -1 for Apple.
Then the one cord they did send seemed to be half a cord. The charging cable itself was missing the extension I count on to get to the plug across my office. At first glance, I was thinking my office would have to be rearranged, or I would have to get an extension cord. Quickly I realized that I could use the one I already have. Score a 0 for Apple.
I got on the phone with Apple and figured out which adapters to order (done in 5 minutes) and get some help making the transition. That’s when I learned that the operating system on the brand-new computer in the box was already outdated, and that my old computer was more up to date. It was just a TWO HOUR install. Score a -1 for Apple. (And that’s factoring in superb service on the phone.)
After hanging up with the Apple support guy, I could feel myself getting more and more worked up over this nonsense. Looking at the installation bar on the computer that said “1.5 hours left” didn’t help!
It was during the interminable install that I had my moment of truth. I was getting very charged up about all of this being a royal PITA. Little things were starting to snowball into big things -- in my mind.
\I went from “I’m getting a new computer – yay!” to “I’m getting the worst computer ever made, this is a disaster, what the hell was I thinking, who needs this s#$t – crap!”
Now remember, all this “mind-craziness” was mostly over a charging cable problem that had been solved hours ago. Every problem I was facing was easily solvable. The question for me was “Am I going to frame this thing as a freak out or something else?” In that state of mind, transitioning to the new computer felt like an insurmountable task. In that state of mind, I had a miserable weekend in store for me. Who needs that?
So I pivoted. I chose to think about it differently: “It is what it is. What will it take to make it work?”
I thought through the steps and it really wasn’t that bad. Yes, I had to dedicate some time and focus. No, freaking out was not going to help,
So I just started doing the steps. No freak out. No more bitching. Just working methodically, I did step A, then B, then C. Before I knew it, I was on the new computer. The old software I thought would never work? Easily updated. My Outlook file I feared would get lost? Handled in a matter of minutes. In the end, it was No. Big. Deal.
It makes me wonder how many times I’ve let my mind make me miserable over something that was No. Big. Deal. And how cool is it that I can CHOOSE to see something differently and it actually, really becomes different?
Where are you framing something as a freak out? Where are you making things harder than they have to be? How much of your life experience is dictated by getting charged up over something that is already solved? How can you pivot your thinking to frame it differently?
As always, I love to hear from you. Please comment – and if this helped you, share it with your friends!
Photo Credit: Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_merzavka'>merzavka / 123RF Stock Photo</a>
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I’ve had recovery on my mind a lot lately. Recently, I fell off a horse, breaking my collarbone. After a couple of long days in the hospital (I also had a partially collapsed lung that required a chest tube), I spent my first full day out of the hospital running light errands. My daughter/co-worker did all the driving, so it really was much less effort than a normal full day of work. By evening though, I was disproportionately tired.
My energy expenditures to run my day exceeded the energy needed to help me heal.
Since anyone who knows me will tell you I typically have a lot of energy to spare, it was a good reminder that I don’t have unlimited energy. Recovery is necessary to gather enough energy to go about my daily business. Usually, a good night’s sleep, healthy eating and meditation are enough to keep me going strong. But not when my body is injured and needs the energy to heal.
As I’ve been more mindful of recovery, it’s reminded me of an insight I had with skiing a few years ago. One of my coaches pointed out that I was not creating enough energy behind the boat to get out to the buoy line before the boat pulled me back. Suddenly I saw the idea: I need to gather energy in order to deploy it.
If I don’t “cultivate” enough energy, I will fall short on the result I need. What a simple concept!
Soon, I could see this idea in action everywhere I looked. The project that seemed stalled? No one was taking the reins and creating enough energy to get the team moving. My lackluster garden? Not enough soil preparation to provide the nutrients to grow wonderful plants. The friendship that seemed shaky? Neither of us was putting any energy or attention into it.
One of my clients told a story that illustrated this principle beautifully. He was the executive sponsor of a multi-year change project in his company. The pressures were tremendous and every second of his day was scheduled. At the close of a team leader meeting, one of his colleagues suggested he walk through the area where a many of the people working on the project were working. At first he declined and then thought better of it. He took an hour to walk around talking to people, thanking them for their work, asking what they needed and generally showing that he cared.
Afterwards, he said he had no idea how much this visit would energize him. It reminded him of what was happening at the ground level of the project and more importantly, he said “This single visit reenergized the whole team. And to think, I almost didn’t do it.”
This simple principle, whether you call it give and take, gather and deploy, cultivate and harvest or something else, underlies all of our endeavors.
We simply cannot harvest something that isn’t there.
We cannot run on an empty tank without severe consequences. Leaders are truly managers of energy.
Where do you need to recover or gather energy? What are the consequences of trying to get the proverbial “blood out of the turnip?” What can you do to energize yourself or others?
Next time you notice something missing, look first for what you might be able to give – it might be the only resource that’s needed.
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