Few weeks ago, I was taken aback from comments received by practically everyone in my environment. At work and at home- No matter how much effort I put forth, I always felt like I was moving two steps back at the end of it. So I walked away, both physically and emotionally, for a few days.
My head cleared up enough to seek out advice from one of my close mentors. Although I started the conversation asking about him, he immediately felt and knew I called the meeting to seek out advice, since I was struggling.
I spoke for almost two hours about everything that was eating me up inside. Looking back, I probably didn't make much sense. But when it was his turn to speak, I actually heard what he was saying. For months before, he'd given me advice here and there about my personality, my passion, my career, my attitude, and my accomplishments. For months I didn't listen to what he was really saying: until now.
There were three takeaways that I am going to share from our conversation and I honestly believe it's these three things that will change my career some way or another.
Don't just listen, hear their voice
When it came to active listening, there are probably thousands of articles that speak to what it truly means to listen. I've read the articles and taken the classes, on top of taking advice from managers and HR reps. But what was different, was he summarized everything I said with things that I didn't even have to say. What it means to listen is to be empathetic for just a minute. As I learned in the Speed of Trust, your intent is transparent, so it is critical that you put all other thoughts aside and be caring to the individual you're listening to. It'll make a difference just in the sole fact that they will be heard.
From this learning, I think I experienced empathy. The other day my co-worker and I had to meet to discuss a strategic move in our organization. Immediately I could sense something was wrong. His energy level was low; soft-spoken words slipped from his tongue and he kept looking down at the floor almost for a way out. As much as I wanted to talk strategy, I stopped and gave him all my attention. At first I didn't think I could help him, which became okay. Just listening was actually enough. He was practically begging for help and I presented humility to say I didn't know. But each time he spoke, my stomach twisted, wishing I could help. For the first time in a long time, I felt as if I truly listened to what he was saying- and I'm not talking about the words coming out of his mouth. I heard his frustration. His defeat. His pain and anguish. It was truly a wake-up call for what it means to truly listen. Towards the end of our conversation, I was able to find some small solution that he saw as the world. We were able to close that chapter and move on to discuss what we had planned on.
Highest Point in your Career is when you're at your Lowest
Going back to that typical Monday with my mentor, I felt horrible to say the least. And all he could do was smile and say "you're so lucky to be in the position you're in right now." Seriously- if we weren't colleagues at work, I would've slapped him.
There I was in tears, ready to quit and walk away from it all. I felt deceived, humiliated, lost, beaten.... Need I say more? And he was practically jealous!
The point is when we're at the bottom of the barrel, we have passion that can either hurt us or accelerate us. We can use emotion (as much as I hate it) to move us in the right direction. It took me slowing down and internalizing the emotions before I could make rational decisions about them. But if it weren't for our talk that day, I would've walked away prematurely out of frustration. Sometimes we need to stop and take in the pain we're going through, and understand it’s what we don't know that'll make this moment grand in the end.
Admitting you're Human
In previous posts I've mentioned what I would do to be part of the collective Borg entity. One cloudy day in the first week of July, I realized I missed closing two documents out of 15 that I was tracking. I gasped and was so hard on myself for doing so when my
manager chuckled and said "oh my God, you're Human." I nearly cried.
Reminding me of this day, and to wrap up this post, my mentor closed the loop on our discussion by saying how critical it is to not be perfect.
It takes a lot of strength to stop and feel- not just the personal emotions that are churning inside but also of those around us. And the more we focus on perfection, we miss the small wins that can take us a long way.
For months leading up to this, day in and day out, my mentor would compliment me on all my strengths and hard work (as I stated above) and I would dismiss each comment he had and beat myself up for something I didn't do.
("Glow of Humility" taken off of Carefree Highway at Sunset 24-AUG-13)
But what was different that day was the three learning’s above. By truly listening, I am able to better understand and respect the situation. I don't always need to be the one to come up on top but what's important is that no one is left feeling at the bottom (humility). And although we have our ups and downs, we need to take each situation as a lesson.
We can't grow unless we fall and we won't fall unless we walk. And looking back at the great leaders in the world, it's the challenges they went through that shaped them into who they're remembered as. Final words: be human and listen, to yourself first, and then others.