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Leadership Success through Forgiveness

Two women one working in leadership role and the other 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 until eight full months, when finally the top management had to intervene as it was affecting the cohesive functioning of the team. Both women arrived at his office and he explained and made an appeal to both to rise above their differences and let bygones be bygones. As the team member women listened, she saw the good sense of what her CEO was saying. She softened, nodded in agreement and turned towards a leader with a smile and friendly glance. However, the leader continued to be stiff and unbending. As the CEO asked both of them their thoughts, the team member spoke up apologizing and assuring it will not repeat. She also spoke up to 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, incidence the team member resigned to join another organization. It turned out that the leader had agreed before the CEO to mend up, but internally she continued to hold grudge and revenge that came across to the team member in various disciplinary actions.

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

In coaching numerous business owners, plus having been in various roles in organizations 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 is- companies are offering great benefit packages, competing with each other on salary and offering countless incentives and much more. To add to this, I also noticed a particular a pattern with most organizations- the pattern of forms. I am sure you will agree below are some common forms we see in almost all the organizations- New-hire forms, disciplinary forms , performance appraisals , grievance forms, career counseling forms, 360-degree feedback , exit interview form etc.

The forms wear down a person’s confidence and self-esteem. They rarely bring out the best in them nor do they help in improving overall productivity. The process of employee transition in and out of jobs continues in the hope of finding another job that is better only to find that the same exists in the other job too.

So where is the gap?

Inability for 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. We set aside budget for employee hiring and trainings only to easily let them go costing the organization stress and money to re- hire and re- train.

Leaders must be firm and foster accountability no 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 next event in their life.

Abraham Lincoln in an instance was asked why he is showing compassion to the enemy when they should be killed. His response- ‘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 life. At times, we bear the brunt of others wrong doing, 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 business and leader coach, I helped many organizations start “Wishing tree” concept. This helped leaders and their team reflect on their actions and thoughts and build great future ahead with their team.

Before we process, as leaders, 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 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 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 the 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?


About Author- Payal Nanjiani is a business and life Coach, Leadership Consultant and Inspirational Speaker. Her program "Success Within" empowers business leaders, corporates, individuals and High School students with extensive success.


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