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I had a boss once who would say “I never should be surprised unless you are surprised too”. What he meant was that I shouldn’t keep bad news from him—if I knew it, he better know about it as well. That was a great policy, but it would have been nothing but a coffee mug phrase if he hadn’t backed it up with his rock-solid stability of emotion. From experience, I knew that he would not kill the messenger even if the bad news was the messenger’s fault. He took hard Truth like a Pro and focused first on Outcome management and secondarily on the root cause.
One morning, badly hungover, I had to tell this man about an idiotic gaffe I had drunkenly committed the previous night. I suppose I had some hope that it would not get back to him if I kept my mouth shut, but I trusted him and believed that I was better off confessing to him than I was surprising him. When I was done, he just shook his and said, “well, that’s not good”. Literally, two seconds later, his phone rang. I could hear whoever called him yelling in his earpiece at him for about a minute, after which he said, “that’s not the full story I heard,” and after a pause “ . . . from the man himself. He’s standing right in front of me.” In that moment, I realized that I had probably saved myself by telling my boss the hard Truth before he heard it from someone else. And, I hope, my boss realized that the reason I did it was because I trusted that he would hear it graciously, which he had.
This is where the “gracious” part of F3’s definition of Candor comes in. An Amateur flips out when he hears bad news, but a Pro takes it with equanimity, focusing more on how it impacts the Group than how it directly affects him. This requires both a Servant’s heart and stability of emotion engendered by the consistent pursuit of Joy rather than Happiness, what F3 calls Contentment (another of the Leadership Virtues).
DANCING Idiot from Freed To Lead
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’
These I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”
- “Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.”
- “Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many–not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
- “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happywould lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
Leaders Leading Leaders
The two brothers
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labour and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John’s door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work,” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?” “Yes,” said the older brother. “I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That’s my neighboor. In fact, it’s my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I’ll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence – an 8-foot fence – so I won’t need to see his place anymore. Cool him down anyhow.”
The carpenter said, “I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post hole digger and I’ll be able to do a job that pleases you.” The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day.
The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, and nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer’s eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work – handrails and all – and the neighbour, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. “You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I’ve said and done.” The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other’s hand.
They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said the older brother. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, ” but I have many more bridges to build.”
Everyday we have the choice of building fences or bridges. One leads to isolation and the other to openness.