Tim McCarthy and the Business of Good

Newsletter: Who Should Change First?

Dec 15, 2010 7:40:00 AM / by Tim McCarthy

Great organizations and great lives are built by great people – people who are willing to grown and change.  Those who treat their employees how they wish to be treated succeed more than those who don’t. [more]

Anyone who’s been married for more than a year can tell you how nice their life would be if their spouse only would stop (fill in the blank here) or would start (fill in the blank here.)

Most entrepreneurs I work with can tell me how well their businesses would function if only their partner or a key employee would stop………or would start……….

The CEO of my old business, Pat White, used to make me laugh when we’d be working on a really difficult problem. She’d say, “You know, if we just didn’t have these customers and employees and vendors, this would be a fun business to run.”

We always wish that someone else would change. In fact, we spend our days planning for how things will be “when someone isn’t ruining our plans.”

Years ago, I told a psychologist something similar about Alice. I probably said something like, “If Alice would just start handling the kids with more discipline, she and I could get along a lot better.”

The psychologist laughed and said, “So, when do you expect Alice will change?”

To which I responded, “Maybe never but I’m working on her.”

At this point, the shrinky-dink said, “So, while we’re waiting on Alice to change, how about we work on you instead?”

It was one of those real “aha” moments in my life.

At that point in my life, I had spent all my time “working on” my kids; working on my wife; working on my employees hoping they would finally change their behavior. I saw how they “should be” and it was my job to help them become how I envisioned they “could be.” Which led to another funny moment in my therapy sessions.

One day, my counselor told me that my dominant traits were that I was 1. controlling and 2. a people pleaser. I asked my counselor what that combination meant and she said:

“It means you want people to do exactly what you want them to do….and then thank you for it.”

Another “aha” moment: I was doomed to constant failure.

Since these moments, both around ten years ago, I’ve spent my life working on me.

And everything has been getting better ever since.

When I catch myself wishing that my siblings would be more patient with me, I focus on teaching myself patience instead.

When I think my kids should be doing something different than what they are doing, I think of something I know that I could do better.

And since Alice and our marriage is the single most important thing in my life, I work constantly on being a better husband.

I don’t even wish for these people to be better siblings, kids or wife anymore. My job is to be the best Dad, brother, and husband I can possibly be. Their jobs I must leave to them to figure out.

One of Mahatma Ghandi’s most famous quotes is:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It applies to all of our worlds.

My favorite example of doing the opposite of this is the restaurant business. Operators tend to be tough, detail oriented, even obsessive employers. They are particularly tough on their employees.

When I’ve questioned them, most will tell me, “Look, it’s a transient business and my customers are very demanding so I have to be very demanding.”

This creates what I consider the ultimate business paradox. That is, how can you disrespect your employees yet expect them to treat your customers respectfully?

Said another way, do they really think they can change their employees into nice people by being tough on them?

And so when I see my son and his business partner, Roy, restaurant operators in Columbus, Ohio, stop whatever they’re doing when a store employee needs them; create insurance reimbursement programs for their part-time, hourly workers; and put on parties and give gifts often and share laughs with their employees, I am particularly proud.

They obviously believe they should change first – that they must “be the change they wish to see in their world.”

Tags: Monthly Newsletter, Professional Growth and Development, Communication & Relationships

Tim McCarthy

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