Standing for the Greatness of Others

I don’t know too many normal people who find it easy to confront others. I sure don’t. I always go through an internal debate in my own head. Surely, this isn’t that big of a deal. Maybe I should just let it slide? or Someone needs to tell her. Wouldn’t I want to be told if I were in that situation? And on it goes.

A Cracked Egg with Light Emerging from It - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mevans, Image #136484

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mevans

I once asked Ilene Muething, a friend of mine and a consultant to our company, how she worked up the courage to confront and challenge some of the powerful CEOs I knew she coached. I had a difficult time imagining myself doing it.

She told me that it was tough at first, but over time it got easier. Usually, she just reminded herself of a few simple truths that gave her the courage to speak up. Her insights were extremely helpful to me, too. Of the many thing I learned from Ilene, this has been one of the most valuable.

Whenever I need to have a potentially difficult conversation with someone, I remember that:

  1. What I have to say is important. If I am struggling with whether or not I should say it, this is generally a clue that I need to speak up. In that moment, I am seeing something or sensing something that is important and needs to be said. The risk of not speaking up is greater than the risk of speaking up.
  2. They need it to go to the next level. Clearly, if they could see it on their own, they would have already changed their behavior. The fact that the behavior persists is an indication that this is a blind spot. They need help—my help!—to go to the next level.
  3. They can handle it. Too often, we see others as weak and fragile. We are afraid that if we speak up they will shatter into a thousand little pieces. But this is simply not true. We need to think of people as giants. They can handle it, particularly if we “speak the truth in love” (cf. Ephesians 4:15).

It really comes down to taking a stand for the greatness of others. People have way more potential than we often think they do. They can change, but unless we find the courage to speak up, they may not have the opportunity.

Question: Is there a potentially difficult conversation you need to have? What would have to be true for you to lean into it and speak up?
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  • http://gracefreakdan.wordpress.com Dan Rockwell

    Michael,

    "Standing for the greatness of others." Once again, it isn't just about me. You've put a positive spin on a challenging activity.

    I like asking others, "What quality do you have that's holding you back?" It seems to open the door to conversations that lead us toward greatness.

    The problem of blind spots is tough. Here's another penetrating question. "How do other's describe you?"
    Perhaps my blog about blind spots will be useful. http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/2009/12/16/b

    Thanks for your insights,

    Leadership Freak

    Dan Rockwell
    My recent post A world of mini-me’s

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Dan. I look forward to reading that.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/tanya.monteiro Tanya Monteiro

    I've been working on a project for years now but spent allot of energy on who I spoke to, how it would effect them and why etc. The deadline for raising the funds is Feb 24th and I decided this is it! this is what I stand for and what I was born to do. I sent it to my whole address book, got out of my own way and the response has been unreal. Thanks for this, standing for the greatness of others often helps us stand for the greatness in ourselves.

  • http://twitter.com/stepmorgan @stepmorgan

    Thanks Michael! A core value for my team mates and I is "Working Together". We are beginning to see how providing feedback in the manner you describe is an important part of helping one another achieve our greatest potential. Given that organizations are ultimately collections of individuals, this serves to strengthen not only the individual but the whole team as well. Thanks for highlighting the importance of this aspect of our work.
    My recent post Death By Facebook

  • Scott Williams

    First of all this title is perfect "Standing For The Greatness Of Others." That makes it clear that these conversations are less about us and more about others. As a young prison Warden, I had to learn steps 1,2,3 and a few more quickly to survive. These tough conversations were with both inmates and staff. The goal was to make the inmates, the staff or the prison better or "next-level" as you call it.

    I just had a conversation with a leader this week about "blind spots" some members of their staff were having. I explained to him that his inability to have those tough conversations and point out the blind spots of his team members over a long period of time is leadership negligence.

    The bottom line is most people appreciate receiving these conversations, as leaders we have to learn to appreciate having them.
    My recent post 8 Ways Twitter Can Improve Your Communication Skills

  • http://www.writersroundabout.com Rebecca Laffar-Smith

    I had a situation today where I felt I should say something but dithered with uncertainty because I didn't want to offend someone. It's hard to know if the recipient will be as open to what I feel is important enough to say as I am to the importance of needing to say it. I love the idea of, "taking a stand for the greatness of others". I'll try to remember this on that inevitable next time. :-)
    My recent post Jen Nipps On Writing Romance

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think sometimes it helps the other person—and you—to state why you are confronting them. For example, “I want to share something with you. Frankly, I was tempted to avoid this conversation, but I am committed to you becoming all that you can be. I think you have enormous potential and this will help you move toward that.”

  • http://www.jodyfransch.com Jody T Fransch

    Thanks for this post Michael. A lot of times I hold back when I need to confront people about stuff that needs to be addressed. I really hate confrontation because it's easier just to let it go. But with these three points you've given me something to ponder upon. After reading this post I'm a lot more confident about confronting people provided I keep those points in mind…and not forgetting to speak the truth in love.

  • Geoff Webb

    Perfect timing, Michael. My wife came home last night almost in tears because of the careless words of a poor leader in her life. We talked for an hour about confronting this person. She knows she needs to say something – not just for herself, but for the others on her team.

    Sarah went through the whole gambit of examining her emotions, questioning her motives, doubting if she had a right to say anything. In the end, she knew she had to say something and that only she could do it. She's meeting this leader this week. Please pray for her – I'll let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks,
    Geoff

    I also love the title, "Standing for the Greatness of Others." My latest post (below) is about just that; others might like Michelagelo's perspective on this…

    My recent post Leading like Michelangelo

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Geoffreywebb Geoff Webb

      Just following up on this post: My wife had lunch with this leader today and confronted her. Sarah started the lunch off with the "tough stuff" – because she knew she wouldn't enjoy her meal if she didn't – and it went great. The leader genuinely received what she had to say and thanked her for bringing it to her attention. We felt God definitely paved the way.

      Just a real-life testimony to the truth of the three points above.

      Thanks for your prayers everyone.

      My recent post Taking Responsibility as a Leader

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Geoffreywebb Geoff Webb

      Just following up on this post: My wife had lunch with this leader today and confronted her. Sarah started the lunch off with the "tough stuff" – because she knew she wouldn't enjoy her meal if she didn't – and it went great. The leader genuinely received what she had to say and thanked her for bringing it to her attention. We felt God definitely paved the way.

      Just a real-life testimony to the truth of the three points above.

      Thanks for your prayers everyone.

      My recent post Taking Responsibility as a Leader

  • Cal

    Thank you for this posting. Your blog is one of the best things about my morning. Always a good take away, more often than not more than one.

    See you tomorrow;-)

    Cal

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Standing for the Greatness of others… I love the sentence. This really puts the activity in perspective and reminds us to focus on the positive. Being a part of Toastmasters International for many years, this activity has become easier when I use a technique called the sandwich evaluation.

    It simply means you praise the person for doing something right (the top bread of the sandwich), give constructive criticism in a thoughtful manner (the meat) and finish it off with a positive comment (the bottom bread) that shows a positive outcome of making a change.

    Evaluations like this have changed my life. Thoughtful people, with the courage to speak, have helped me greatly in my professional career.
    My recent post What Do You Want In An iBook?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/success2you John Richardson

    Standing for the Greatness of others… I love the sentence. This really puts the activity in perspective and reminds us to focus on the positive. Being a part of Toastmasters International for many years, this activity has become easier when I use a technique called the sandwich evaluation.

    It simply means you praise the person for doing something right (the top bread of the sandwich), give constructive criticism in a thoughtful manner (the meat) and finish it off with a positive comment (the bottom bread) that shows a positive outcome of making a change.

    Evaluations like this have changed my life. Thoughtful people, with the courage to speak, have helped me greatly in my professional career.
    My recent post What Do You Want In An iBook?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MichaelSGray MichaelSGray

    I find that confrontation is far more difficult if the subject of my conversation is my boss or someone in authority over me. Aside from all the typical uncertainties, the fact that this person authorizes my paycheck is alarming. Have you had a subordinate confront you? If so, was it more difficult to handle than criticism from a peer?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      This is a really good point. It is much more difficult confronting someone over you. I welcome confrontation from peers and below. The challenge is to “make it safe for dissent.”

  • http://www.diongovender.wordpress.com Dion Govender

    Michael, certainly difficult to confront people. I believe the key is asking oneself “why am I confronting this person on this issue?” If your answer is motived to sincerely build the person then you will find –
    1. It will be easier, focus is shifted from yourself.
    2. Your approach will to the confrontation will be seasoned.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Dion

  • Robin Pippin

    Wow, what a great post! So helpful to me as a supervisor and leader.

  • http://www.yuzzi.com Rick Yuzzi

    I think one additional check would be to look at my motivations for speaking to them. I'd want to be sure my motivation is to help that person or some other person involved, my company, etc., versus, if the motivation is primarily about me or my own self gratification.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I agree. I usually have to check my motivations for not speaking to them, because that is my natural tendency. Usually, it is about my comfort. Once I focus on their potential and their greatness, everything shifts.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lindsey_Nobles Lindsey_Nobles

    Great post. So often I dread this. But I think I am just looking at it the wrong way? From now on I am going to look at it like this: I standing for someone's greatness.
    My recent post Drafting Blueprints, Part 6

  • kirk@kirkweisler.com

    People don't confront difficult situations because they fear it will get worse if they do. They have never seen a successful model of such a confrontation. Instead they have seen arguements, felt contention or worse. There are 2 wonderful books on the subject. "Crucial Conversations, Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High" by the Vital Smarts group. And "Leadership and Self Deception" by the Arbinger Group. Thanks for all you do Kirk

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I have read the first book. Very helpful.

  • http://sarahsandifer.blogspot.com/ Sarah Sandifer

    What a beautiful tweak on thinking. Normally what holds me back from having difficult conversations with somebody is my own pride, insecurity, or fear- rarely is it consideration for that person. But in all other aspects of our lives, we are made to be 'other-focused' and intentionally pouring ourselves out for others, so it makes complete sense that that way of living would flow into difficult conversations as well. I have to constantly remind myself that 'it's not about me.'
    My recent post I say tomato, you say Roger That

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      So, true. I so often avoid these conversations for the sake of my own comfort. Great point.

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  • http://twitter.com/Jenni_Burke @Jenni_Burke

    Perhaps point #4 to remember would be, "They are worth it." This value of the other person is certainly implied in your post already. But by keeping that belief forefront, the confrontation can be done from a place of respect and love, an attitude which will be sensed by the person being confronted.

    Excellent advice for a difficult necessity, Michael and Ilene. Thank you.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Absolutely. This is foundational. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • Kevin Lloyd

    Michael–
    Thank you so much for this post. Today I am facing 2 very difficult conversations with 2 young leaders who report to me. I needed the permission that you just gave me. I was going to have the conversations…but you have freed me up to "lean in" and aggressively fight for their greatness. Sometimes, working in a church, I want to shy away from this in the name of "grace". Thanks for allowing my grace to have courage today.
    God bless–
    Kevin Lloyd

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      I think of the Lord’s example. He loves me too much to let me remain unchanged. ;-)

  • http://www.sequoiathoughts.blogspot.com Connie Brown

    You asked: Question: Is there a potentially difficult conversation you need to have? What would have to be true for you to lean into it and speak up?

    Two things need to be true for me to speak up: 1. I believe I have something useful to share, and 2. I'm grounded in a place of love when I share. I wish I could say that I always wait to be in that place of love before I open my mouth.

    Thanks for another great post.
    My recent post Yikes! There's a spider in my Web

  • http://www.liesioverheardinchurch.com RussWrites

    I think the biggest element to how these conversations go is the type of person you are. I think if you hint of arrogance or judgment the person becomes defensive or apathetic towards your words. So, my thought is, if you want to be this type of leader, you have to be a certain kind of person first.
    My recent post New Burnside Article – Why Jesus Was a Carpenter

  • Matt Bowman

    I think you hit on a huge insight, "They can handle it." It will sting at first, but after the initial shock, mature people & mature leaders can see the value that the confrontation added to them. This is especially true with the people we have invested in relationally. At the same time, if they have trouble handling it, you've also helped them b/c it's possible that they haven't been confronted w/ difficult conversations often enough, but if they want to grow as a person & as a leader, they need to not only be open to but welcome some of those confrontations from people who are invested in their growth or as you put it, their "greatness".

    Excellent post

    Matt
    My recent post

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KarlaAkins KarlaAkins

    ZING! What a great advice for married folks to heed! For parents! I think we have a generation of kids whose parents were too afraid to hurt their child's psyche so withheld the discipline they needed.

    NO! We are tough!.God made us strong. We. Can. Handle. It.

    This is one of those lessons I'm going to ponder in my heart for awhile. Thanks for posting it.
    My recent post Click: Hoosier Ink: You Might Be a Writer If. …

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/patriciazell patriciazell

    As a teacher, I have "difficult" coversations with my students most every day. It's sad when they can't see the greatness within themselves. As I try to encourage them to spread their wings and fly, I'm careful how I phrase what I have to say in order to help them see their potential. One thing that I also encourage them to do is to catch my mistakes. If they realize that it's okay to make mistakes, they may be more inclined to try.
    My recent post #30 BECOMING A SON OF GOD: THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY SPIRIT (2)

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    Stepping into difficult conversations has never really been a problem for me. I can be a little aggressive sometimes and don’t like dancing around an issue but rather like to get to the point, address it head on and move on. Some issues require more finness than other but you get the overall point. I’ve always trusted my gut and if I felt something needed to be said, for the most part I’ve said it (with respect and love of course). I think many times we rationalize not speaking up out of concern we’ll offend someone but I’ve never found that to be true – in the long-term. Sometimes people disagree or get flustered at first but they usually respect honesty much more, especially if they know your intent is coming from the right place.

  • James Koerts

    Okay… you convinced me. I’ll have those conversations I’ve been thinking about having.

  • http://twitter.com/KarynBrownlee @KarynBrownlee

    When we see something in another that needs addressing, it's also important to be prayerful. Are we the person that God would use to speak this word to this soul? We may be gifted with discernment, allowing us to see areas in others that need growth, but that doesn't mean we are called to speak everything we see. Sometimes "my help" is just what the Great Physician orders. Othertimes "my help" may be an expression of "my pride". But when we are called to speak, we most certainly should speak from a heart of love. Thanks for referencing Ephesians 4:15. What a great word.
    My recent post Science says: Happiness is good for the heart

  • http://kultivateyosoul.wordpress.com Dyaji Charles

    Michael,
    I think you wrote this post with me in mind. Really blessed this african right here in the middle of africa's rain forest. Thank you
    My recent post Waiting to Exhale

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  • http://journeytowardnonviolence.com Christianne

    I really appreciate the underlying premise of this post: People have the capacity to change. This is something at which I continually marvel and for which I never grow tired of thanking God. It stokes me that God creates us — and indeed all of creation — with a capacity for growth and therefore change. It's marvelous to me that we don't stay the same. Our bodies grow, and our minds grow. Our spirits grow, too … or shrink, if we starve them.

    So often I encounter people who shrug their shoulders, shake their head, and then say about someone with whom they're in a frustrating situation, "Well, they'll never change. That's just the way they are." I disagree! The fact that we can change and grow is what perpetuates hope.
    My recent post What Is Nonviolence, Really?

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  • http://twitter.com/ministrygeek @ministrygeek

    Mr. Hyatt;

    This outlines well a commonality we all share – the need to be liked. those who lead however, must lead from the truth regardless of being liked. If one leads from the truth it will increase respect and transparency in the workplace (or the home). Dr. Robb Thompson says it best – "I would rather be hated for telling the truth than loved for telling lies." Of course, as you point out, al leaders, we need to get over ourselves.
    My recent post Link Added – Marriage Today

  • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    I just caught this post about confronting others. What a fresh perspective you offer about the respect we show when we do so! I'm in awe of the grace displayed in your remarks, Mike.

    In my early 20's I was a cop who daily confronted others in their wrongdoing. Around the same time I became aware of my sin and the great price paid for it. The compassion I've developed for people in my awareness of grace—combined with the skill of confronting people in the manner least likely to escalate emotions—means the Lord often uses me in gently confronting others in cooperation with His Spirit. I affirm that it is most successful when done with the respect you've so clearly and concisely offered here.
    My recent post Question of the Week

  • http://building-his-body.blogspot.com/ Anne Lang Bundy

    I just caught this post about confronting others. What a fresh perspective you offer about the respect we show when we do so! I'm in awe of the grace displayed in your remarks, Mike.

    In my early 20's I was a cop who daily confronted others in their wrongdoing. Around the same time I became aware of my sin and the great price paid for it. The compassion I've developed for people in my awareness of grace—combined with the skill of confronting people in the manner least likely to escalate emotions—means the Lord often uses me in gently confronting others in cooperation with His Spirit. I affirm that it is most successful when done with the respect you've so clearly and concisely offered here.
    My recent post Question of the Week

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  • http://Www.leatherhelp.com Chris Repp

    Thanks for the God- timed post. I know you thru Jon Dale and Kevin Miller. I have to confront someone tonight and have been thinking about it all morning. Your post has given me the courage to pursue the truth in love.

  • http://www.wizardofwords.net Doreen Pendgracs

    Thanks for that post, Michael. It brought back such horrid memories of a woman who was determined to ruin my professional reputation several years ago. I tried to set things straight with her, but she would have none of hearing the truth. She was determined to believe that I am less than honorable. Now, 7 years later, she still holds that opinion and continues to try and spread untruths that have caused me some difficulty. I find it so sad, frustrating and disheartening that some individuals choose to live in a negative world with eyes and ears closed, as opposed to cherishing all the wonders just within reach — on the bright and shining side of life.

  • http://twitter.com/lancecashion @lancecashion

    The quote from WMMC popped into my head. "what would I do if I was not afraid. I'm in the health insurance business (sales) and I've had to confront leadership in regard to changing our business model to adapt to change. We're a family owned company, founded 40 years ago… change doesn't come easy around here. Its a challenge, but VERY fulfilling.

    I appreciate the insight Michael.

    Thanks
    My recent post Life Insurance Planning: Remember, No One Gets Out Alive

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  • http://www.forward-living.com W. Mark Thompson

    Speaking the truth in love is THE key in my point of view. How many times have I seen a scene play out where someone felt “convicted” to share something NOT in love. Sure, they may have been justified to bring it to the attention of the other person. But not sure there’s ever justification for being a jerk about it.

    With love, the message is received much better.
    With love, the sincerity shines through.
    With love, there’s MUCH more of a desired outcome.
    With love, we can make it easier if there’s a next time.
    With love, we create a morale that can’t be replaced.