Recently I was asked about some of the best advice I have received over my career. As I considered my response, I thought about some of the great business minds and strategists who provided guidance. I paused for a moment before answering the question. I wanted to make sure that my answer would reflect how I chose to live my life.
The answer I gave was this, “The best advice I have received is to provide hope and encouragement to all and to offer unconditional love and forgiveness to everyone.” This was a business interview, and I could tell that the gentleman who asked the question was caught off guard. My instinct was right because he tried to clarify that his question was more about business advice and not personal advice.
Pausing one more time, I thought about the response I had provided, “Provide others with hope and encouragement and live with unconditional love and forgiveness.” There was a pause on his end, so I asked if I could clarify what I meant and why I believe it was still the best advice I had ever been given personally, professionally, and spiritually. His response came quickly, “Yes, please connect the dots for me.”
Beginning with hope and encouragement I shared that early in my career I was fortunate enough to have worked in a culture of hope and encouragement. From the CEO on down, including my manager, all worked with the spirit of lifting each other up. There was hardly any turnover on the team. And since we know that people don’t leave jobs, they leave their bosses, this was so unique that I knew that I wanted to emulate it in my own career and in my life. Wondering if it was the right approach for the company, the answer is yes, they were successfully acquired.
The attitude of gratitude was abundant. And as I received promotions, I was then responsible for the productivity and care of those on my team. Rule #1 for me was a commitment to creating a culture and environment based on the foundation of hope and encouragement. If that did not fit with anyone on the team, they were encouraged and free to find success elsewhere.
“OK, this makes sense in that context. But I’m curious, tell me about love and forgiveness in the workplace,” the gentleman continued.
“Let’s not forget that we are talking about unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness that succeeds at home and at work.” That’s important because oftentimes we try and place rules around both. As we discussed love, I wanted to make sure that he understood that I was not speaking of romantic love, I was speaking about a different kind of love. A love based on appreciation, respect, honor, and a willingness to come alongside each other in the good times, wins, losses, and family emergencies. The kind of love that team members always knew they could count on. A “family first” approach, whether it was the team’s personal family or the family culture we created on our team.
Unconditional forgiveness works the same way. I have found that most errors made in business never torpedo a company. Giving team members permission to fail. Unconditional forgiveness is not a “get out of jail free” card. If the mistake crossed the line and hurt the company or the team, a client, or partner significantly enough, there would be consequences. Remembering all the times I had failed and was given grace, given unconditional forgiveness, even if I lost an account or an opportunity. My leadership team always made sure that I was OK first, and then worked with me to identify what went wrong and what I could do better next time. It was not only their advice, they demonstrated it each day.
How about you? What’s the best advice you have received personally or professionally? I would love to hear all about it at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we can live and work with the spirit of hope and encouragement and unconditional love and forgiveness, it really will be a better than good year.
Michael Norton is the grateful CEO of Tramazing.com, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator to businesses of all sizes.