It was St Francis of Assisi (1181 –1226) who first quoted “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”. Many popular speakers and authors, including Stephen Covey have gone on to write books and chapters about this simple concept. How often do you seek first to understand, or are you trying to be understood, OR MAYBE just shooting and asking questions later. OR MAYBE JUST SHOOTING!
Well for me I had one of those seek first to understand opportunities this week, let me explain how it all un-folded. Tuesday morning this week I receive a note from our CFO asking me if I knew that a press release had been issued by one of our vendors referencing me, the City of Brampton and our direction regarding IT Security. Immediately 50 things raced through my mind, (decision point) I told myself first to seek to understand before assuming people screwed up, the vendor went over the edge or someone was out to get us. Then I traced the steps back until I had spoken to everyone in the process. First I spoke to the Senior Manager responsible for the area, he confirmed for me that the vendor was not going to act until we approved the press release, I asked him a couple of questions about the vendor and the person he had in charge of this initiative and I clearly understood and agreed with everything we discussed. At that point my mind immediately jumped to the vendor, www.bullzisecurity.com thinking, okay WHAT DI D THEY NOT UNDERSTAND !
In the meantime I spoke to our Manager of Corporate Communications to see if maybe they had agreed to the release. Of course all of this time not thinking that Bullzi Security could take my quote out and issue their own press release, they don’t need our approval for that. (decision point) Having spoken with all the possible internal people I had a choice to make, do I take this to the next level, do I, or does someone else call Bullzi and ask, WHAT HAPPENED. Thought about it for a few minutes, took a walk, weighed the pros and cons and decided, We needed to know. (decision point) Now do I call or do I have someone call. If I call then I get to manage the discussion and send the message that this is a CIO issue, do I have one of my team call, one who owns the relationship, but that might be where the problem is……. ARGH LEADERSHIP. Anyway I decided to call. We set up the meeting for later in the day (decision point) this bought me some time to think further. In the meantime my Senior Manager popped in my office and reminded me that this firm is great to work with, with a leading edge product and he kind of asked that I don’t do any thing to push them over the edge…. Guess I might have done that in the past, but not this time, this is “Seek to understand” time.
So 3:30 rolls around and I am speaking with Tom Welch, CEO, Bullzi Security out of Mary Lake Florida. First I thank Tom for the publicity, after all, we all like having our name “Out There” come on be honest with yourself. Then Tom jumped in and suggested I was going to rough him up about the situation, I said, NO SIR, I am calling to understand where this went wrong, why we were surprised and how we can fix this going forward. We had an excellent discussion, I found out where this issue is and we are moving onto our next initiative. I circled back with my team today on it and we are up to speed.
It is critically important for your own success, and the success and well-being of others around you to seek to understand. For Tom, he had business pressures to get this good news story out, www.bullzisecurity.com/news/news_september-25.html so he removed my quote and sent out his own press release. He told us this earlier in the week, some how that information did not make it thru before the press release showed up.
Try to seek first to understand, try it at work, try it at home, try it wherever there are people and situations.