The Leadership CONNECTION: Learn to Spread some Rain
In the winter of 2005, intense storms lashed Southern California, pouring record levels of rain into catch basins, along normally dry creek beds, and across the driest, most barren place in North America, Death Valley. Following the wettest period since record keeping in 1911, this forbidden wilderness became festooned with bright yellow, pink, white and deep purple blossoms. The rain fell gently into the salt-crusted soil, washing off the waxy protective coating from millions of seeds that had lain dormant for years in ground where temperatures zoom as high as 200 degrees. Flying into this multihued panorama hovered the Sphinz moth, a pollinating marvel the size of a hummingbird. Death Valley became the Garden of Eden. Have you ever encountered someone whose persona resembled Death Valley: dry, impenetrable, rigid, without the moisture of a smile or the glimmer of optimism? Perhaps someone like Mary Ellen? If you watched Mary Ellen walk into a room, you almost saw the dust fly off her mouth if it cracked in an unaccustomed smile. Her shoulders hunched forward and to most ears, the tone of her voice alternated between hostile and imperious. Few people wanted to be around her. Too bad. She had a crackerjack mind that remembered facts and figures better than a data base. Her command of language startled even the most educated and her creative eye rendered solutions for the architectural firm. It’s just that no one wanted her dealing with clients. Too abrasive. Larry decided to “spread some rain”. He began by asking her questions about how she developed an interest in architecture and design. He discovered it was her way of trying to connect with a father who built houses and who also ignored her. Like the Death Valley seeds, he realized she had erected a protective shield as a result of past hurts, insecurity, perceived indifference or disdain of others. He shared a little about his family. She opened up again. Then he risked even more. He pointed out the positive strengths she brought to the firm. Kindly but firmly, he talked about her blind spot. He told her that he KNEW she had no idea how she was coming across and that he believed she was better than that. Larry spread some rain. She blossomed. Oh not all at once, but slowly the firm saw some shifts. She started to even wear brighter colors. You might say she began flowering. All because someone saw in her some internal loveliness that she didn’t see for herself.