Success Within - 2017

Leadership Success through Forgiveness

By Payal Nanjiani

Two women, Joanna working in leadership role and Anne reporting to her as a team member got into bitterness with each other over day to day work operations. Both failed to understand each other and the leader often felt the team member was trying to get into her role. Things went on with this bitterness for eight months, when finally, the top management had to intervene. Both women arrived at his office. He explained and made an appeal to both to rise above their differences and let bygones be bygones. As the team member woman listened, she saw the good sense of what her VP was saying. She softened, nodded in agreement and turned to the leader with a smile and friendly glance. However, the leader continued to be stiff and unbending. As the VP asked both of them their thoughts, the team member spoke up apologizing and assuring it will not repeat. She also told her leader, “Forgive me Joanna, it was wrong of me to get so worked up over day to day operations of the work, let's start back afresh." The leader agreed and they left the office.

After couple of months of this incident, Anne resigned to join another organization. It turned out that Joanne had agreed before the VP to mend up, but internally continued to hold a grudge and revenge that came across to the team member in various disciplinary actions.

How many instances can each of us remember where outwardly we said it is all 'OK' but did not really mean it? How many of us today still hold professional grudges?

In training and coaching business owners and corporate leaders, I have noticed most employees these days are hesitant to make a long-term commitment to their employers. I started exploring to see where the gap maybe, even though companies are offering great benefit packages, competing with each other on salary and offering countless incentives and much more.

So where is the gap?

The inability of leaders to set an example of “Forgiveness" creates the gap which does not allow any transformation of employee and leads to a transition of employee to another organization. Companies set aside budgets for employee hiring and training only to easily let them go, costing the organization stress and money to rehire and retrain.

Leaders must be firm and foster accountability without any doubt. However, they also must know when to forgive past wrongs and look towards building a bright future. One of the most courageous acts of leadership is to let go the temptation to take revenge and hold grudges. How leaders respond to an event determines the response in the next event in their life.

Abraham Lincoln was asked why he was showing compassion to the enemy when they should be killed. His response was, “Haven't I killed my enemies when I made them friends through compassion." Instead of settling scores, great leaders make gestures of reconciliation that heal wounds and get on with business. This is essential for reducing turnarounds and creating a holistic work environment.

Forgiveness is - Flexibility, Maturity, Courage, Positive attitude.

As leaders when we let go and forgive we actually try to understand the weakness, fears and insecurity of those on the other side of the issue. Mistakes and negative events occur constantly in our lives. At times, we bear the brunt of others' wrongdoing, and at times we wrong others. Forgiveness does not mean putting up with the unacceptable behaviors, it is not a onetime act, it is not a hypocrisy. It is not about running away from yourself and your true feelings. It's all about your inner strength and reflecting about the situation. In my role as a business and leader coach, I helped many organizations start a “Wishing tree" concept. This helped leaders and their team reflect on their actions and thoughts and build great future ahead with their team.

Let's understand the three types of forgiveness. They are:

Forgiveness of self
Forgiveness of others
Forgiveness of situation

There are simple yet powerful techniques for leaders to achieve success through forgiveness. And the technique is FORGET

Focus change- As soon as you feel resentment or grudge, change your focus on something which is more productive to your team and work. The more you focus on the possibilities, the more you will come closer to solutions.

Ownership- Always remind yourself that resentment is a self-start. It starts within us first and does not come from the outer source. A leader who shows resentment to any team member is the first owner of it before it can even reach the other person. So, if you can create resentment you can take ownership to create goodwill.

Reflect- Every night and empty your mind of the little hurts and grudges you have accumulated during the day. As you retire to bed, think of the people who have wronged you through the day—wronged you, harmed you, cheated you or taken undue advantage of you. Once it's out of your mind, sleep with a positive thought about the person or situation.

Get clear- Clear your mind of the memories of anger, resentment, hurt and bitterness. slowly but surely. You pay a huge price in physical and emotional terms, if you are unable to forgive and clear your mind.

Enrich self- Whenever you feel resentment towards a colleague or situation put a cent into your piggy bank or box at your table as a pledge towards forgiveness. Every month open it and you will be amazed how much you collected in the piggy bank of life and coins.

Thought- Your mind should be able to obey your instructions. Order your mind to forget unnecessary thoughts and memories which can only cause pain and distance you from the people.

You can make every experience in life into an enriching process or you can use it to become more resistant towards life. You must choose.

I urge you as leaders to think of someone who has wronged you or hurt you. What does it mean for you to forgive them? What would you have to do to forgive?