My mother was a quiet, unassuming woman of conviction. She laughed easily, sang in a gentle, loud voice, and always spoke kindly of others. I don’t believe I ever heard her say an unkind word about another person.
On March 7, 2015, my sisters, brother, a family of cousins, grandchildren, friends and her church community celebrated her life and laid her to rest. Her brand of wisdom, mixed with her Bahamian slang and folktales, shaped my life and continues to guide my interactions daily. On occasion, I find myself expressing (or using) her pearls of wisdom during my leadership seminars and coaching sessions. The four that come to mind, in order of priority are:
#1. It is easier to tell the truth than to make up a story about the truth.
I will never forget as a kid getting caught playing in the cane patch and making up stories to avoid punishment when I was confronted about it. And while I was thinking up the story, she would look me in the eye and say, “ Patricia you don’t have to think to tell the the truth. Were you in the cane patch or not?" I would sheepishly respond "yes, ma'am." This same maxim applies in leadership scenarios. Leaders tend to strategize how and when to deliver a communication to employees. Even if it may be hard to hear, employees prefer straight talk because they already have some idea of the message content. When leaders "soften" the message they lose credibility. Empowered leaders risk and speak the truth rather than tell part of the truth or "make up a story" about the truth.
#2. Treat people right and with a giving heart because you never know when you will meet them again.
Although it is not publicly acknowledged in organizations, employees can make or break a company and its leader based on how they are treated. The leader knows it and so does the employee. Imagine being promoted to a position of leadership where some individuals have felt mistreated by you (their new boss). This scenario occurs often in many organizations, and presents an opportunity for the leader to rethink their behaviors and treat the employees as partners. Treating people right does not mean you become a doormat, rather think before you act, that's what my mother would say. If you are reading this blog and have had the experience of becoming a colleagues' boss, please share what happened and if there were issues, explain how you resolved it.
#3. If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, keep it to yourself and forgive yourself for thinking it.
There is not much to say about this lesson because at one time or another, each of us has probably heard this quote in one form or another. The difference is the added suggestion to forgive oneself. In short, don't gossip or make assumptions about others. It is like a boomerang, which returns to the giver tenfold.
#4. Have faith. Never give up.
You must believe (have faith) in yourself. No one else can because faith is personal. Getting up when you are temporarily defeated is an expression of that faith. Leaders must believe (have bought into) and trust the employees to do their jobs in support of the vision, mission and goals of the organization or they lose faith and begin to force their leadership. So, leaders the moment your organization begins to falter, rekindle your belief (faith) in self, your trust in the employees and lead.