Wholehearted Leadership Opinion: Why you need a little grace grease

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Cutting your colleagues some slack—while still asserting yourself—can reduce conflict

“He who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence.”

I was thinking about these words of wisdom this week. Basically, they’re talking about grace.

So, what does it mean to be gracious?

To me, being gracious is choosing to look at what is right more than looking at what is wrong. It’s seeing what is good instead of seeing what is bad. It’s looking at the positive more than the negative.

I was speaking with a CEO a number of years ago. I asked her what she loved about her business. She said, “I love my people.” I then asked her what she hated about her business. She said, “I hate my people.”

We need grace for people. As leaders, we need grace for our people, and our people need grace for us. We need to be able to choose to see the positive in people, the good in people and what they’re doing right.

Will people mess up, make mistakes, do stupid things and drop the ball? Absolutely. Does that include us? You bet. Where there are people, there is both good and bad. There will be days when we love the people we work with and days when we hate them.

Where there are people, there will be friction. People will rub us the wrong way, and that’s why we need Grace Grease.

Every morning before we go into work to interact with people—who have the potential to cause friction—we need to cover ourselves with Grace Grease. We need to choose in advance that we will be gracious. This is premeditated grace.

When someone says something that could offend or upset us, we can choose to get offended, or we can choose to think the best of the person. Are they always like this? Is it out of character? We normally have a good relationship—what’s going on?

We can cut them some slack, be gracious and overlook the offence.

I heard a story about a leader whose partner said something offensive to him that totally threw him. He was rocked by it. After going away and pondering what was said, he realized that this was not the norm in the healthy long-term relationship he and his partner shared. He determined that it was simply a stress-caused misstep and overlooked the offence.

He was gracious.

Now, we must understand that there are two pedals on this bicycle. One pedal is choosing to be gracious, forgiving and overlooking an offence. The other pedal is being “carefrontational.” It’s choosing to confront someone in an attempt to help them grow in an area they may not see or be aware of the negative impact they are having on others. But it’s doing so with care—for their growth and benefit.

I believe we have a propensity to ride one of these two pedals more often than the other. I know my propensity is to be confrontational. I will more often address things that I could probably be more gracious about and overlook. I need to learn to be more gracious.

What about you? If your propensity is to be gracious, you may need to learn to be carefrontational and not let people walk all over you. You may need to learn to stand up for what is right more often and not be so nice.

And if you are like me and have a tendency to address everything that is a little off, it’s probably time to cut people some slack and be gracious—believe the best about them.  Focus on what is right, good and positive instead of what is wrong, bad and negative.

Great leaders know how and when to be gracious and how and when to be carefrontational—for the benefit of the other person, not just so we feel better.

Let’s start by covering ourselves with Grace Grease every day so we experience less friction with those with whom we work. Let’s give people the benefit of the doubt.

David MacLean empowers CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives to dare greatly in his role as B.C. best practice chair for The Executive Committee Canada (TEC). David also writes and speaks on Wholehearted Leadership: inspiring, encouraging and equipping leaders to harness their most valuable asset—their HEART. You can reach him at dmaclean@tec-canada.com.