As Robert Frost stood peering down those two roads contemplating which he should choose, he decided on the one less traveled. In life we are given this choice almost daily when presented with a challenge. When a client, sibling, spouse or peer brings it to our attention that we may have made a mistake, or they may not understand our point, we must decide which road we will go down in response. Should we be quick in our self-defense, redirecting blame to whom we deem guilty…or should we take a step back, endeavor to understand and explain ourselves in different terms so as not to offend?
I took my first management job at the age of 19 in a restaurant as a training manager. My boss thought I was much older and I was happy to play that role, so I found myself scheduling and training a wait staff that was five to twenty years my senior. For a short-time I chose to manage through a dictatorship approach, wielding my management power with reckless abandon but quickly found myself on the Bounty in the middle of a mutiny. I realized that if no one was willing to follow me, by definition I would not be a leader. I learned at this early age that it was better to ask for advice and feedback than to just administer rules. Better to listen than speak. Better to walk in their shoes before I kicked with my boots. I have not always taken this High Road in life, but the lessons learned when I chose the other path were ones of loss, pain and loneliness.
A true leader must make the difficult choices and take responsibility for those actions. But only a narcissist believes they have the right answer without consultation. Even now in my second career with 25 years of experience, I don’t have all the answers. Nor do I see every nuance in a challenge. My opinion is not the only one that matters. To rush forward with defense or accusation in a contrary situation without first hearing the other side is unjust and will never reflect one in a good light.
In any business, friendship or team effort there will be conflicts. They are brought on by those that are unsure of their standing, or by fear of appearing as anything less than a subject matter expert. The reaction from someone that feels attacked or belittled can often be swift and vicious. Fight or Flight kicks in and words spew out without filter and in a manner with no regard to pain or offense. So when faced with a situation, consider this; If you are the attacker, become the coach. If you are the attacked, become the problem solver. Use the energy that engages your tongue and convert it to energy that engages your ears and your brain. If you do this, two things are likely to occur; first the conversation will be productive and secondly you will become the catalyst for thought and change.
The Bottom Line: When you stand at the crossroads of conflict and must choose the best path forward, always take the High Road. You will find that it often is “the one less traveled by”. It could make all the difference.