“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” -Mahatma Gandhi
I hadn’t noticed any changes in my approach or the amount of my activity. In fact, I felt like I was working harder than ever to get new clients, serve existing clients, and manage projects precisely. Nothing made sense as to why my results were suffering.
Prior to founding my company, The Mindset Maven, I worked for 20 years in sales and marketing management. Starting with my first position, I would max out my earning and advancement potential and move on to the next. Each time making a little more and gaining more responsibility.
I had gotten so used to the pattern that I expected growth every year. That’s why the shock of a down year had me scratching my head. Tactically, everything was the same and I couldn’t pin-point anything operationally that would cause a downturn. I didn’t believe it was the economy because I knew people in the industry were still spending money. It just wasn’t with me.
Finally, I stopped trying to solve it on my own and hit my knees. Not even knowing what to pray for, I just remember saying, “God…I don’t know,” and then sitting quietly. I’d love to tell you there was a flash of lightning and my bookcase burst into flame and God spoke to me out of the burning bookcase, but no. Actually, I got nothing. Didn’t hear a word, didn’t feel a pull…nothing.
So, I sat down at my desk at the same moment one of the company owners walked in. He showed me a sales calendar and highlighted the month my production had obviously dropped off. I honestly didn’t care for him as a person or leader of people, but he had a first-rate business mind.
He had drawn an arrow from the fall-off month, June, back three months to March. My stomach dropped because I knew what was coming. Most sales results are delayed. In our particular business, we could show about a three-month delay between activity and results. In March, I had spent way more time organizing the efforts around rebuilding our house after losing it to a fire than I had doing my job.
This wasn’t news to me. I knew that I had shirked my responsibilities during that time and felt horrible about it. I had compromised myself by coasting and had worked ever since to make up for it. He really didn’t need to tell me that I had screwed up. I had hoped that I could make up for the shortcoming before anyone noticed, but I couldn’t seem to get over the hump. If only God would tell me…what…to…
As soon as he left my office, I hit my knees again. This time in thanks. The little “motivational” visit WAS the answer to my prayer and I was able to fix what was wrong in a matter of minutes, not months. The issue? A double shot of guilt and resentment caused by my cover up. The cure? Forgiveness.
“Whoa there mindset guy! I thought there was going to be a business lesson here! What’s with the touchy-feely stuff?”
Cool your jets. This is a business lesson and it might be more hard-hitting than most because there’s a chance this very thing is cutting you off from profits.
When I had my down moment, my weak month, whatever you want to call it, I felt bad about my actions. That’s guilt. What the guilt caused is the key though. Because I’ve built my mindset for achievement, I wanted to make up for my actions/inactions, but I wanted to do it without anyone knowing I had slacked. That’s a mutation of pride.
The formula so far is to cover my guilt with overachievement before anyone finds out. Got it? It’s the perfect fairytale. Instead of being chewed out or having to admit I messed up and then be told to pick up the slack, I would pick up the slack before anyone figured it out. That way I would be more of a hero than a villain. (Does anyone else think this way?)
So what happened? Why didn’t it work? It’s simple looking back.
When we make a mistake or realize a deficiency, our instinct is cover up. We’re trained as children that mistakes are bad and should be avoided at all cost. Red marks on papers, getting benched for missed shots, and trips to the principal’s office are all reinforcements. Stories of people making a mistake and getting it fixed with their own initiative and ingenuity are the stuff of legend! We aren’t supposed to mess up and we certainly aren’t supposed to admit it when we do.
With that approach, the first step to the fall is an improper focus. Since we want to fix it ourselves and we don’t want anyone else to know, we isolate. Our focus turns inward and we cut ourselves off from those that can help us. In business, we cut ourselves off from our clients.
You’ve probably had an experience as a customer where a company wouldn’t return calls or emails when you asked questions. Later you find out they cut themselves off because they had messed up and were trying to cover up and fix it. They only imagined you would be mad, when they really had no idea. Even if you would have been mad initially, things are much easier to fix when everyone is involved.
In the end, things end up much worse. Now we have a mistake layered with guilt, pride, isolation, and a fresh helping of resentment toward others because, “they don’t understand or appreciate everything I’m doing.” Kid ourselves all we want. At this point, the focus is entirely on us and how we can make this work without repercussions.
In this state, everything is more difficult because we’re hauling around extra junk and not seeing clearly. The same or more effort produces less results and nothing works the same. Our relationships with clients suffer because we are internally focused and when client relationships suffer, profits suffer because they aren’t spending money with you. When relationships with peers, colleagues, and co-workers suffer, profits suffer because no one is as efficient as they could be. This multi-layered and compounded mistake will crush you emotionally and financially.
How’s that for touchy-feely?
The only way to fix the situation is the same way it could have been avoided in the first place. Forgiveness. Specifically, self-forgiveness.
Self-forgiveness is the one that gets the least attention. Forgiveness is supposed to be for those slime bags that do us wrong. What if we’re the slime bag?
We ignore self-forgiveness because our nature wants to protect us from things like embarrassment and scorn. To forgive ourselves, we must risk exposure and admission of guilt. Somewhere in our ego, we convince ourselves that making mistakes is weak and people won’t do business with us if we show weakness. I’ve seen the truth be just the opposite.
Whether our customers ever know of our mistakes or of our forgiving ourselves isn’t the issue. Our willingness to be humbled and accept our own forgiveness shapes who we are as people. It permeates our being and breaks down barriers instead of creating them.
By forgiving ourselves, we take the focus off us and put it on the people responsible for our business success. They see us as who we are instead of the façade created by the cover up. You are who they want to do business with, not some nameless, faceless corporation that never makes mistakes. You!
The most important aspect for me was by acknowledging my own need for forgiveness:
- I lessened my bias and judgments toward others.
- Forgiveness became a way of life.
- Now I forgive and move on without a second thought without feeling the need to find fault.
- Solutions for people gets my energy.
- I’m free of petty “what ifs” and am less concerned about appearances and circumstances.
- It allows me to be in the moment because I’m not anchored to the past.
- I can be present and serve those who give me the privilege to serve them.
- I’m closer to the One who created forgiveness and gave it to us to use.
And just in case you think that self-forgiveness can’t be powerful enough to make a difference in your business, I have an example from one of the most extreme books on life and business available. This book is so on the fringe that it is banned in 52 countries and on the restricted list of 14 others.
“For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” 1 Corinthians 9-11
Paul’s business was to preach the news of Christ. A guy who had persecuted the same church he was now charged to expand to the world! He had stood by and watched believers be stoned to death and was now to preach a message of salvation. Any issues of guilt there?
Regardless of your beliefs or level of belief, it is undeniable that Paul had a significant influence on the world. He had to borrow God’s grace in order to forgive himself and serve those that would believe. By forgiving he set the table for self-acceptance and self-acceptance allow others to see us as we are and connect deeper.
Build a culture of self-forgiveness around you and watch your relationships, your influence, and your profits flourish.
Be your best,