Seek to understand first . . . A funny leadership story

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By Michael Rogers

I heard a story the other day that reminded me of the need for leaders and people in general to seek to understand first before getting involved. In my years of observing leaders I have seen many of them jump to conclusions and get involved in issues way too soon.

In many cases the wise leader that is patient and seeks to understand the problem first; eventually discovers that there is very little he or she has to do to help solve it. Many issues have a way of working themselves out without the need of the leader intervening. At the very least the leader that seeks to understand first puts himself or herself at a greater advantage in helping get the problem resolved if it needs to be.

The Sharing Couple

One day a little old and very cute couple walked into the local fast food restaurant. The little old man went up to the counter and ordered their food. He brought back to the table a hamburger, a small amount of fries and a drink.

Carefully he sliced the hamburger in two and then neatly divided the fries into two small piles. He sipped the drink and then passed it to his wife. She took a sip and passed it back.

A younger man at a nearby table observed this couple and begin to feel sorry for them. He offered to buy them another meal, but the old man respectfully declined saying that they were used to sharing everything.

The old man began to eat his food while his wife sat still, not eating. The young man continued to watch the old couple feeling there was something he should be doing to help. As the old man finished his half of the burger and fries, the old lady still had not started eating hers.

The young man couldn’t take it anymore. He asked, “Ma’am, why aren’t you eating?” The old lady looked up and politely said, pointing to the old man, “I’m waiting on the teeth.”

You might have the same initial reaction my wife had when I shared this story with her. She laughed and then with a disgusted look on her face said, “Gross!”

But how many times are things not as they appear? Seek to understand first is a good rule of thumb.

What has been your experience as a leader with jumping to conclusions? Has someone ever misunderstood you? I would love to hear your thoughts on this by commenting below.

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