We need to talk about the fine line where self-reflection and personal responsibility becomes self-sabotage in the form of tolerance for shenanigans.
While it’s all good and well to be responsible for internally working out our role in creating and maintaining conflict with others, sometimes you just need to tell someone who has no interest in your success to pound sand.
If you’re reading this, you are probably someone who is up to something worthwhile in the world; you have some gift to offer, some vision to fulfill, some quality of being that drives you to be of service to others on a daily basis.
You have probably experienced yourself as an outcast, a weirdo, an odd duck, a square peg in a world of round holes, and you’ve come face to face with others’ derision, scorn, ridicule, and other forms of resistance to your genius.
You are also probably someone who is willing to “do your work”, to reflect on your behavior and look for where you can improve your track record of kindness, generosity, patience, and “owning your shit” when you treat others less than ideally.
Maybe you even over-do it with this tendency, second-guessing your impulse to jettison ne’er-do-wells from your orbit even after they’ve proven themselves to be uninterested in learning anything from you, hearing what you say, or following your lead.
I’m here to tell you that you have permission to be as ruthless as you need to be to fulfill on what it is that you are here to do.
That’s right. You don’t have to tolerate anyone’s resistance to your willful contribution to the world – especially when they come close enough to have an adverse effect on your momentum and your ability to make powerful decisions and take clear effective action.
Fortunately, I have a little story to share that will help illustrate this for you, in case you’re facing a similar situation.
A Case Study in Self-Sabotage and the Power of Course Correction
I have always been willing to delve into an inquiry about my part in interpersonal conflict; I have a temper and a stubbornness that makes it challenging for some people to relate to me, and I know that sometimes – often, actually – I need to check myself in order to create win-win conversations.
Recently, however, I had a situation in which a project I’d built from scratch had come to point of stagnation due to my tolerating someone who had come on board but was not, from day one, on board with me as a leader – and I went overboard accommodating him.
After the first few months of increasingly poor performance, and I confronted him and gave him a set of conditions that would he would have to meet before he was qualified to participate in what we were doing.
I watched his performance improve, but only marginally, and he was on board for another year and a few months; the entire time, his baseline performance was below the standard that I knew was required for the project to truly thrive.
And nearly every time he spoke, I was reminded of how I had not stood for the value of my leadership, my value as a coach, and my authority as the owner of the project. I grew resentful and began looking for ways to put pressure on him to deliver more or bail.
I tried to convince him to come to the conclusion that he needed to resign his position; I wanted to empower him in the choice, to give him an opportunity to leave with power and dignity, so I invited him multiple times to consider that he wasn’t interested in playing the game we were playing.
He didn’t come to that conclusion; the conclusion that he came to was that I was a bad leader.
He told me in a variety of ways how bad a leader I was, even so far as publicly declaring that we were doing everything wrong and that I needed to consult with him to make it better.
It finally came to a head after that.
I confronted him one final time, first in a team meeting and then privately; I suggested with absolute clarity that the proper conclusion for him to arrive to was that he did not belong and that it would be better for him and for our project that he excused himself.
He did not agree. He dug in his heels and insisted that he knew better how the project was supposed to go, that I was nothing but ego-tripping, and made it clear there was no way he was voluntarily quitting the project.
In that final conversation, I left the ball in his court, ignoring his clarity and hoping that he would either come to the proper conclusion and excuse himself, or there would be another confrontation and ultimately the team would decide.
But during that week, I realized that trying to orchestrate his enlightenment wasn’t working; it wasn’t working for him, it wasn’t working for me, and it wasn’t working for the team or the project.
I realized that I wasn’t owning the entirety of the situation; that I was expecting him to be responsible for the fulfillment of my vision, despite the fact that he made it absolutely clear that he regarded my vision as nothing but an ego trip.
Conversations with the other members of the team revealed that while everyone liked him, there wasn’t a single one of us who had a compelling argument to let him continue to stay – and in fact he could have been cut a long time before this.
I realized that standing in the place of ownership of my vision and the direction of the project required that I make the decision. It was time to stand for my leadership, for my value as a coach, and for my authority as the owner of the project.
So I fired him. I called him up and told him it was time to part ways. The conversation was brief, terse, and final. He made no case for a continuance, declined my invitation to come to the next team meeting for a completion conversation, and that was it.
I felt relieved and at the same time now present to the weight of the entirety of the project on my shoulders; I had stepped into full ownership and now knew that the movement forward would need to be immediate and robust, else the firing was just an ego trip.
The next morning on my daily walk and talk, I asked myself “what’s next?” and a brand new vision for the next phase of growth for the project poured out of my mind and heart in a lightning bolt of inspiration that has since been put into action on the project.
I took this as confirmation that my decision was correct.
I was no longer concerned with this person‘s presence on the team, and was now free to create, since all of the other members of the team have been consistently and enthusiastically willing to go wherever I choose to lead the project.
You deserve this kind of freedom to fulfill on what you see is possible for your world, too.
If you have people in your life, your business, your world who cause you to question every step, who speak ill of you or your creative output, I invite you to consider letting them go and giving yourself and them the gift of being free from one another’s presence.
Because if you’re reading this, I am certain you have too much to offer the world to be tolerating anything less than the best from your allies and partners.