“To err is human, to forgive divine.” Alexander Pope
If human history has proven nothing else, it has proven people make mistakes. Some mistakes are bigger than others. Some mistakes have greater consequences than others. In over thirty years, serving approximately 350 clients, I have seen mistakes made and I have surely made a few mistakes of my own.
Here are some lessons I have learned along the way:
1. Whether as customers, clients, suppliers, managers, direct reports, or any other of the almost infinite roles and relationships we fill and share, we will interact with people.
2. All those people make mistakes.
3. How we handle the person and the mistake can make the difference between success and failure.
That leads us to the next logical question: How do we handle it when mistakes are made?
“People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” Plato
One of the challenges we often face when doing Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) work with clients is that the work starts in a remedial place. I don’t mean this as a pejorative or to suggest anything negative about the organizations and people we serve. I mean it literally. Many times organizations begin the work after an incident has occurred or a grievance has been made and the organization is trying to remedy the situation.
It is clear in these situations that the organization and the individuals who have made mistakes have work to do. However, what is less obvious, though critical, is the role played by those who have been aggrieved, negatively affected, and/or made outsiders. In this position, we are faced with a simple (and, sometimes, not so simple) choice. Plato might have asked, “Will I nourish or stunt?”
As we apply The Love Principle in our work, we ask the question this way: Do I choose growth or correction?
When we choose correction, we issue a verdict: The person is wrong, not just in what they did, but in who they are… or have been. Our focus is stuck in the past over which we have no power.
When we choose growth, we look toward the future over which we have power. While we must address grievances, when we do so from a growth mindset, the ultimate goal is to make tomorrow better than yesterday, growing our colleagues and the organization. By extension, we make it less likely that we will have the negative experience again.
Bottom line: It’s clear which approach is most likely to serve the bottom line.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
When we operate from The Love Principle, we also create more powerful relationships. We shift from “what I want them to know” to “what I want them to learn.” We shift from failure to possibility. We shift from boxing people in to making room for what a former colleague used to call “the biggest room in the world”: room for improvement.
In response, our colleagues are more likely to be open and proactive than closed and defensive, which is the natural response when we feel accused or attacked. In a word, The Love Principle builds trust. Sure, studies have been done to prove this reality and you can read about them in all the business journals and publications, but first ask yourself: Don’t I do better work when I’m working with people I trust?
I bet you do. I bet you’re more creative. I bet you’re more engaged. I bet you’re just plain better. In a conversation about marriage, a friend shared, “You have to love to trust. And you have to trust to love.” In my experience, the same is true in business.
“All types of knowledge, ultimately mean self knowledge.”Bruce Lee
In the end, the greatest benefit of your adopting The Love Principle will not be felt by your organization or by your colleagues. It will be felt by you. As you train your eye to see opportunities for growth rather than reasons to correct, you will see the same in your own career (and life!). As you love and trust others, you will also love and trust yourself, making room for the best version of you to shine through and perform at a high level as only you can.
Try working, living, being in The Love Principle. You will learn, as I have, that “To err is human, to love divine.”
This article is the first of three in a series on The Love Principle by Doug Harris, CEO of The Kaleidoscope Group.