by Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
In this column, I would like to share some perspectives on the value of yielding when it comes to working with others. First, I must make a distinction between yielding and surrendering.
In Japanese jujitsu, the principle of yielding is often essential to the proper execution of a technique and the successful defense of oneself. Yielding can be understood as going with another person’s energy or movement instead of fighting it. Surrendering means giving up and letting the other side have its way at your expense. I hope this helps you see how these two concepts differ.
When I was in my early 20s, I earned my MBA. Our family insurance agent helped me get a job at a local firm. When I left, I went to work for a much larger corporation. My manager — I’ll call him Phil — was a great example of how not to act as a leader.
Phil was self-righteously moralizing, inconsistently strict and condescending. The worst part was, he was utterly oblivious to the bad energy he put out. On one occasion, he pulled me into his office to lecture me on what he’d perceived as “attitude” from me — which, in this case, meant “less than total compliance with how Phil thought things should be.”
The lecture dragged on so long that I wound up staring off into space. Finally, I had to ask him if he was done so I could go back to work. He looked dumbfounded, then laughed and told me to relax and not take things so seriously.
That’s right: He pulled me into his office for a serious talk about my lack of professionalism and ended it by telling me not to take things so seriously. I lasted at the company for about five months.
Looking back, I can recall numerous instances in which Phil could have used the concept of yielding instead of demanding that employees surrender to his will and directives. I understand that numbers are important in that business, but Phil simply chose to focus on a harsh, unrelenting approach to managing people. The silver lining of my experience there was it enabled me to devise three lessons that I hope will help you lead others and develop amazing teams by using the notion of yielding.
Yielding means working with others, not demanding that they surrender to you.
It was very clear from my words and body language that I wasn’t happy at that company. Phil’s approach to “helping” utilized anger, guilt and lame attempts at shaming me. Had he actually tried to sit down with me to discover why I was so dismayed, perhaps we could have crafted a better solution.
But Phil wouldn’t yield in his mission to make me a more profitable insurance agent no matter the cost. This only created more apathy and frustration in me. When I left, I was happy to be gone.
Yielding allows you to further understand someone’s intentions.
Phil was notorious for getting angry and loud with employees. Most of his rants were laced with questions intended to trap you rather than help you find the cause of and solution to your problem. People really didn’t like Phil; they simply tolerated him as a boss. This didn’t create an environment that bred commitment or longevity.
Phil never bothered to be in the collective flow of the office. While our location had high sales numbers, we also had more sick days and a high turnover rate. Phil didn’t understand that you can’t get positive results from negative methods.
Yielding provides you with the time and space you need to think.
Most of Phil’s interactions were reactive rather than responsive. If you didn’t land a client or make a sale, he was ready to pounce and blame you. The reason you hadn’t succeeded didn’t matter, nor did any previous successful sales you’d made.
When things go awry in your life, yielding to a situation doesn’t mean you give in completely. Sometimes, when you go along with someone or with a situation, it allows you to craft different options and modes of approach. Phil was far too much of a “my way or the highway” type of manager. Because of that mindset, he never grew as a leader.
Phil’s approach to leadership can best be summed up by paraphrasing John Maxwell: “If you only use a hammer, then you begin to see every problem as a nail.” People and their respective problems will always require a variety of approaches. Using the same approach with every person ultimately will lead to more problems for you and your organization.
In case you were wondering, Phil eventually left that firm and went to work for his family’s restaurant. I don’t know how he’s doing these days or if he’s improved himself. I do know that he provided me with great inspiration for my current work, and I wish him well.
Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a professional consultant/speaker on subjects that include teams, leadership and conflict. To contact him, send an email to [email protected]
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