Who is your neighbor?
Not long ago I talked with the manager of a local restaurant. Her unit at the Wilsonville Road / I5 interchange has been dramatically affected by construction, off ramp congestion and street closures. She described the impact and some of the creative things she has been doing to overcome the decrease in customer count. I said, “I have an idea for you.” I suggested she give out free second meal coupons or free dessert coupons for the customers at the gas station next door. They could even do some wraparound promotions. I am sure their business has been impacted in the same negative way by the construction disruption. She said, “That man (referring to the owner of the gas station next door) is a mean man! He’s an unhappy man.” She gave me several examples of how he’s made life difficult for the contractor that is doing the construction at the interchange, the city of Wilsonville and others. I said, “You have convinced me he is a mean man alright. Give him a free pass for lunch. Invite him over for lunch with you, whether you like him or not, whether he’s a good guy or not, and see what results occur.” She remained highly skeptical; I didn’t make the sale.
There may well be people in your world, in your life who are going to remain in your life whether you like it or not. In other words, people like the gas station owner next door, they’re your “neighbors,” family members, in-laws, coworkers, and others who you have no way of controlling. You can’t make them go away, you can’t make them do anything, and you can’t change them. Trying to force them to change is often a pure waste of energy. What we can do is be at our best; we can function from our highest ideals. My experience with not a few, not dozens, not even hundreds, but thousands of participants in our Leadership Development Lab (LDL) has shown me that often, not always, but very often breakthroughs occur. What does it take to
achieve these breakthroughs? It takes one more effort, one more try, and we must operate from high ideals. You have to make the first move. It takes courage to take the initial step to make the first move. This is leadership. You have to take the initiative; you have to change before they will change. Change your approach, change your attitude, change your tactics.
Let’s never forget Einstein’s advice, “Continuing to do things in the same way and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” If you’re not satisfied with your relationship with a “neighbor,” I encourage you to try something new, something different. I know it will take courage; your heart may be beating fast. The benefit you will gain is a different result. You may even amaze yourself. The most important benefit you will gain is you will no longer be a victim. You will be a victor no matter what the outcome of your effort.
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