Thursday 9 March 2017

How to not Lose Your Head

Following on from my last blog post about difficult people, I want to share another story with you about an individual that had to deal with a difficult person. Whilst this story goes to extremes, I feel you may be able to relate to some of the underlying patterns. The things that also cause you and I to lose our ways.

Harry was a powerful CEO. He was the trusted right-hand man of the company's chairman. Mark was the company's finance director. Harry was a tough leader and all the employees feared him and submitted to his orders. Actually, Mark was the exception, which really annoyed Harry and made him feel undermined. Everywhere Harry went, Mark seemed to be. He would arrive at work and Mark would be coming out of the lift Harry was entering. He would go for lunch and Mark would be at the same restaurant. Even when Harry went to parent's evening at his kids' school, Mark was there about his kids. Harry hated Mark and extended his hatred to the whole finance department. Harry was known to have a short fuse. It was on his advice that the chairman instantly dismissed his long-standing PA of over 25 years. What had she done wrong? All she did was refuse to wear high heels to a deliver a presentation to the board.

One day, Harry received the news that the Financial Times would be writing a feature about him. This information made him feel on top of the world. As he left his office however, the mere site of Mark caused him to become enraged. Harry saw his presence as a personal insult and decided to take a drastic step; he was going to get him sacked. The chairman would need to authorise this so Harry went to convince him. On arrival, the chairman also needed help and asked Harry for advice. Harry's head was so full of his rage and hatred of Mark that he was unable to really hear what the chairman wanted. It was something about rewarding someone and Harry's ego and clouded thinking could only imagine that the chairman wanted to bestow honour on him. Harry had described his own ideal reward package. It involved a lavish trip on the chairman's personal jet and the individual's name being used for the next product line. When Harry is done giving over all the details, the chairman tells him to make it all happen ... for MARK. Mark had devised a legal scheme to drastically reduce the firm's tax liability so the chairman was indebted to him. This was the final straw and a furious Harry vows to not just terminate Mark, but to get rid of all of the finance staff.

There is more to the story but these are the key parts I wish to highlight. To conclude the story, Harry's bad decisions mean it is actually him that gets hung out to dry. If you know the biblical story of Esther read on the Jewish holiday of Purim, you may see the parallels to my story. If not, do not worry, the point here is to give a dramatic illustration of what a failure to understand the nature of our experience can lead to.

Not judging you if you have, but I myself have never sacked anyone because of a personality conflict. However, I do feel wronged by that guy swerves between lanes cutting me up in traffic. Who does he think he is? I find myself trying to teach him a lesson by catching up to him and doing the same. Or better, getting in front again by outsmarting him rather than just driving fast. Whilst driving at 50 mph on a 30 limit road am I really making good decisions? Did Mr Swerve really set out to upset me personally? Underneath my thinking, I am just experiencing the same pattern as Harry had towards Mark. Harry was not aware that his own thinking was creating a reality about how Mark's only reason to exist was to cause problems for Harry. More objectively looking at the situation, Mark was innocently doing his job, which had to include approving expense claims of even the CEO, but his financial decisions were not directed personally to Harry, or anyone. I encounter many types of drivers on the road each time I am behind the wheel but seeing another driver as an idiot is far more a reflection of my state of mind than it is about how well they are driving. If I fall for the trap of arrogance and take their driving style personally I am having a bad day. I don't know nor does it matter if they are too. Catching this fact alone usually creates an instant change from me seeing them as idiots into people requiring compassion, and lots of distance.

Harry also failed to realise that he was working on the incorrect premise that outside circumstances determined his feelings. I sometimes believe that I am a much nicer person when the sun is shining on the weekend than when it is raining on a work day. This is only valid if I believe it to be. I only need to look at my life and know that this is not true. Harry was on an emotional roller-coaster ride. Highs from the exclusive party and lows from encountering Mark. He felt that he had no choice and spiralled out of control. If only he had been aware that he was on the ride. He could have let the emotions pass and move on to the next one. Life is more like a sushi conveyor, you can choose which items to take.

The final lesson I take from Harry is that he accidentally gave honour to Mark. When I am about to miss a deadline, I find myself so caught up in excuses, blame and hiding it that I fail to do anything productive. The more we fill our heads with things and hold on to them the less we can access our wisdom. Whilst I am not advocating sabotage, I feel that given mental clarity, Harry could easily have found a way to undermine the chairman's efforts to honour Mark.

In conclusion, don't be like Harry. Know that thoughts come and go. Realise that being offended is just a barometer on your level of consciousness. Finally, keep your mind free to allow your innate wisdom to come out.

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