I am very good at noticing what is not right in the moment, at least in my mind. I have even developed an uncanny sense of recognizing when my own mental paradigms are not serving me anymore. Yet focusing on the moment can hinder me from seeing the bigger picture.
I see this problem whenever I or anyone I know is fighting for their rights and their need to settle injustices with someone who holds an opposing point of view. I have been a Warrior for years. I love Betty-Ann Heggie's description of the warrior on a recent post on Reflections on Gender Physics.
... the Warrior uses the three universal kinds of power: power of presence, power to communicate and power of position. Gandhi and Mother Teresa would both be examples of individuals who use all three kinds of power.
Yet sometimes the Warrior energy can hurt a negotiation. Or because their energy is positional where they work to persuade instead of inspire a change, warriors can lose the fight or just burn out and give in over time.
That's why I love the following story by business coach and consultant, Paula Shoup. It demonstrates that if you look beyond the present moment, you might be able to not only see new opportunities for connection, the person you disagree with might shift his or her perspective as well.
Being promoted to Director of Supply Chain in Puerto Rico was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my 22-year corporate career.
I was really excited about this opportunity for several reasons. This was a chance to set up a new supply chain department across multiple divisions in an international culture. I wanted to perform well with my new title of Director which I had earned through my accomplishments and by passing a battery of tough tests. Finally, working in a different location (a tropical island!) from the Phoenix area where I had worked all of my adult life was alluring on many levels.
Then reality hit. I had to work with a number of divisions run by male vice presidents with very large egos that wanted things done their way. I quickly realized how little I knew about this machismo culture. To top it off, the lure of a tropical island diminishes after enduring long days of sweltering humidity, large bugs and sad thoughts of home a long plane ride away.
My window office had a beautiful view of the lush tropical green hills in the distance and a beat up ugly cemetery in the foreground. One day, as I scratched my bug bites and cursed my colleagues, I looked out the window and thought, "I have a choice: focus on the green lushness in the distance or the depressing graves up front."
If I focused on the lushness, keeping the end in mind instead of my short-term gains, I had a better chance of seeing possibilities for my problems. It worked, sometimes. Other times it was not easy at all. Many days my emotions got the best of me and the shift was almost impossible.
But when it did work, I was able to get over my frustration, disappointment and resentment to see how I could actually succeed in a difficult situation. For example, I had to negotiate with the plant managers to centralize a portion of his purchasing department into my new supply chain department. One plant manager was especially concerned about giving up control and how it would impact his facilities' performance. I negotiated with him to let my team pilot a portion of just one service contract as a test run, letting him know that I would back off if the test failed.
Once the manager saw the large savings that resulted from the new contract, he was willing to support the rest of the centralization efforts. Focusing on his needs instead of my own gave him the trust he needed to let go of control and support my new department.
Focusing on 1) the common ground that will create future results and 2) what is important to the person in front of you instead of your own needs will enable you to quiet their fears and need for control, whether the egos are male or female. Also knowing that persistence pays off keeps me emotionally focused on what is possible.
Ten months into my two-year Puerto Rico assignment, I negotiated a lateral move to a vacant director role back at the Arizona division. That move never would have happened if I had not won the trust of the leaders I worked with. Using this strategy maintaining of focus on what is positive and possible, and then building trust through positive results enabled me to overcome any difficulty in my corporate career and to even have the courage to start my own business.
In the practice of Aikido, there is a movement I was taught where we first see from the other person's perspective, and then shift them so that we both can see what is in front of us. The next move, of course, is to take the person to the floor. However, metaphorically speaking, you do win when the other person can see the possibilities in the future that are green instead of the loss in the moment which feels bleak.
I stand for all Warrior women to become Inspiring Visionaries. Together we can change some strong minds.
Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D. is the author of Wander Woman: How High-Achieving Women Find Contentment and Direction. She is a professional coach, speaker and leadership trainer who works with a variety of people and organizations around the world.