Larry W. Dennis, Sr.
Jim, the safety coordinator for a large paving contractor in southern Oregon, told Session 6B of the Leadership Development Lab:
“My 25-year old son, Mitch, lives with my wife and me. He tinkers on numerous projects and typically leaves tools, materials, cleaning rags, etc., lying around while working with and after completing a project. On many occasions this has resulted in a significant mess and has been left for me to look at and stumble over, not being picked up for weeks at a time.
As both Mitch and I would come home from work, my instantaneous greeting would be one of anger. For example, in a much raised voice, I would say, ‘Mitch, I’m sick and tired of your junk lying all over the place. I provide you with a place to live and this is how you treat me. I’m tired of your disrespect. When are you going to grow up and start acting like a responsible adult? Now get your junk picked up!’ On many occasions this motivational technique would result in Mitch just blowing me off and he would wait a few more days (or until I threatened to kick him out) to pick up the mess. Without realizing what was happening, a huge wedge was being driven between my son and me. After Session 2 of the Leadership Lab, I began to seriously ponder our relationship. I realized this is so not right. Although it took a while, I stopped yelling at Mitch. Instead of yelling, I became genuinely interested in him (Leadership Principle #2). With our greetings, I
would ask how his day went, what went good, what went bad, etc. Not every time, but frequently, this would result in a lengthy conversation in which we simply enjoyed each others’ company.
Now when there is a mess to clean, I wait until we have discussed our days’ events, and then politely ask if he could clean his work area, not in a threatening tone, but one more of doing a favor. His response has consistently been, ‘No problem. I’ll get it taken care of.’ Even better yet, he has begun the cleaning process at project completion!
The lesson I learned from this experience is when in an adversarial relationship, STOP, step back, and take a hard look at my involvement, my part in the drama because the problem just may be me. The action I call you to take is become genuinely interested in the other person; ask questions, listen, engage. The benefit you will gain is you will both be much happier. You will have a renewed relationship, and the results you were originally seeking will be achieved.”
We all know that unless behavior is changed, results will stay the same. This simple story makes a very clear point for Jim to get a change in and with his son, he first had to change his approach. When he did, his son changed his actions. Where would you like to get a different result? What changes do you need to make to achieve your desired outcome?