Today I want to tell you a story. Before the high heat of summer set in, I had my brother install new tint on our windows to keep the heat out. We have 9 huge windows on the south side of our house that heat everything up in the afternoons. The type of tint he used is highly reflective on the outside, which is great for reflecting light, however, it created 9 individual mirrors on the outside of our house. Now, you’re probably wondering what the big deal is, so here’s the deal. The Northern Cardinal mating season runs from May to July and the females are extremely territorial. For several weeks, we had a female cardinal repeatedly slamming herself into her own reflection because she saw it as a threat to the pretty male birds in the yard that she was interested in hooking up with.
My husband and I both figured she’d eventually catch on and give it up but not until the mating season was over, did the incessant pecking stop. And I say pecking like it was this cute little tap, tap, tap on the window. It was really more like she was body slamming herself into the glass. This got me thinking, how often do we feel the sense of someone encroaching upon our territory and get our feathers all ruffled up, as it were? Or, how often do we make the same mistakes over and over again never learning the lesson? We tried several different ways to get this bird to move on but no matter what we did, that thing just wouldn’t, or couldn’t figure it out. Also, you clearly don’t want to mess with female Northern Cardinals when they are trying to get some.
Too often humans behave just like the cardinals; we see our reflection aka fear and we let it stop us from moving forward to get what we really want or need. The same can be said about toxic relationships. Some of us stay in relationships we know are unhealthy but like that cardinal, we keep bashing our faces against the window hoping for a change that will never come, and what we don’t realize is that the relationship we desire is waiting for us in the next tree over.
Lately, I’ve been discussing my thoughts on leadership and by now you know I strongly believe that in order to be a good leader, you have to be good at relationships. Part of building strong relationships involves letting others in. A lot of managers struggle with this because they fear if they give an inch, then their people will take a mile. Or, they let their egos get in the way and they can’t relish the idea of giving over control to their team. I think it boils down to self-esteem issues. Rather than working together with folks as a united front, they’d rather call all the shots for two reasons. First, they worry about being viewed as weak by their superiors. Second, they get comfortable or complacent and change equates to more work. How often have you been involved with a group of people who have “this is the way we’ve always done it” tattooed on their foreheads? It’s called the comfort zone for a reason, it’s comfortable there. It’s like a big, fuzzy, warm blanket where new ideas come to die.
But, what if as a manager or leader, you were to let your team in? Let them be part of the decision-making process. Ask them what is working or not working. If you are doing reviews on their work, have them reciprocate on your work. This is no easy task because, for most of us, it’s hard to hear that our people are unhappy. And, for a lot of people, it is really hard to accept the fact that they need to change or evolve. My comeback to the people who say “this is how we’ve always done it” is “well, that doesn’t make it right.” If you are a manager of people or a leader in your group, I encourage you to get to really know your people and bring them into the fold. Be transparent. Be honest.
This brings me to the final thought I want to address. Sometimes, relationships are flat out toxic whether in your professional life or your personal life. If the reason you’re not keen on sharing the load with your teammates is that there’s what I like to call “a snake in the grass” amongst you, then it is time to consider moving on and ending that relationship. You know the type, they take credit for all the ideas, they say one thing and do another, and you flat out can’t trust them to ever do the right thing. In this case, in my opinion, you have two options. Either you find ways to cover your ass such as keeping a file that documents your interactions, or you call it a day and get the heck out of there. Trust me, it is not worth it to waste your energy on those hellbent on bringing you down. There are other lovely places to work and better opportunities to share your knowledge with people who are truly invested in you and helping you grow as a person. Don’t be like that cardinal slamming its body into the window hoping to scare off the competition. Rather, look around. See what’s out there. You might be pleasantly surprised at the new opportunity that’s waiting for you to reach out and grab it.
If you’ve ever been in this situation, I’d love to hear about it and what you did to overcome it. You can either leave a comment below or you can email me at email@example.com.