The Mindful Leadership Blog

Just In! A Profound Leadership Secret: Cause No Indignity

February 8th, 2018

What’s hot?

Leadership wisdom resides in places you least expect.  Unlike our typical Just In – which is a thumbnail summary of research on the topic of leadership – this one offers wisdom from a guru in the book, “The Rowan Tree,” a novel by Robert W. Fuller.  The guru’s sage words were too profound to ignore:

The Golden Rule of Relationships:  Cause no indignity

So what? 

A wound is an injury suffered as a result of blunt force trauma.  Wounds are serious – not scrapes or boo-boos.  Pride and feelings get wounded when someone suffers an indignity. If you get stabbed, you get a stab wound.  If someone tells you to shut up, or denigrates you in public, your spirit gets wounded.  Many leaders unwittingly wound spirit on a daily basis.  A wounded spirit heals more slowly than a wounded body.

What to do?

If you are doing your job as a leader, there will be occasions when you are under duress – times when you are disappointed in results or feel vulnerable.  Those are the times when it is essential that you do not “wound spirit” by attacking or demeaning others.

Here are 5 proven steps to assure that you “cause no indignity” when things don’t go as you hoped.

  1. Pause. Resist commenting for at least a minute.
  2. Accept that facts don’t change people’s beliefs or behaviors. People act based on their feelings. Resist hurling facts in an attempt to prove others wrong. It just creates the impression that you are trying to be smarter than everyone else. There will be plenty of time to explore facts later.
  3. Ask questions and listen carefully to uncover what the other may be feeling. Avoid why questions – they prompt defensiveness. Ask what and how Examples:  How did you determine that the deadline should be extended? Or What caused you to change the formula we use to calculate ROI?
  4. Once you think you may have identified what the other is feeling – test your assumption to ensure understanding. Example: So, what happened was that you were so frustrated that Production did not provide their input on time, that you figured ‘what’s another day?’
  5. Instead of telling the other what to do to correct the situation, use the four most powerful words to frame a request: I need your help.  What can you do to resolve the problem (or, to prevent it happening again)?  When you do this, you preserve the dignity of the other person in two ways. First, you convey that you believe he or she is smart enough to explore the facts to find a solution. And, secondly, you trust her or him to be accountable for making things right.

Follow the five steps above to sharpen the rare leadership skill of maintaining dignity under duress.

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