Bud had finished 9 out of 10 very difficult and time consuming assignments for the merger. He had worked very, very hard in difficult circumstances to finish what he had completed. At the board meeting, he covered the nine projects he had completed and then confessed that he didn’t have time to finish the last. Lou, the president of the company, gave the assignment he hadn’t completed to someone else for the next week, and then asked Bud if he could walk with him to his office after the meeting. After some small talk, here is what Lou said to Bud:
“Bud, we’re happy to have you with us. You’re a talented man and a good man. You add a lot to the team. But you won’t ever let us down again, will you?” (The Arbinger Institute, Leadership and Self-Deception).
But you won’t ever let us down again, will you?
Is that a threat? Is that ungrateful? Is that inconsiderate? Unbending?
As Bud told that story to a co-worker, he commented about Lou, “He probably violated every management principle known to man. If 100 people tried to do what Lou did to me in that meeting and afterward, only 1 in 100 could have invited my cooperation, as Lou did, rather than my resentment.”
Want to know why Bud didn’t respond with resentment? It’s the point of the chapter in Leadership and Self-Deception. He didn’t resent what Lou said because he could sense how Lou felt about him. Lou looked at Bud, touched Bud’s shoulder, and spoke with such sincerity that though the words could have been harsh, they weren’t. Bud knew they were not said in harshness. The words were tough to hear, but the way they were said changed the situation completely.
Do you give off such a sense of caring about your husband or wife that you can say something that most people would resent, but instead it invites your spouse to draw closer because he or she senses that you care?
Think about Jesus when he asked Peter, James, and John, “Couldn’t you stay awake for one hour?” Was that sarcasm? No, they knew how Jesus felt about them, and they knew not to be rebuffed at his question.
What do you need to do to give your spouse that real sense that you care deeply; so deeply that you can say something hard and they will receive it as an invitation of warmth?