Sometimes I wonder if we really need to spend so much money and time over these overrated management courses. Many lessons, whether they are life lessons or management lessons are around us, in our environment. All we need to do is to just keep our eyes and ears open and use a little bit of perspective.
Background: I am very frequently visiting a nearby hospital in Gurgaon these days for my father in law’s treatment. As usual, this hospital is very busy. During the daytime visiting hours, the registration lobby and parking lot are always crowded. On one such afternoon, after a little drizzle, I was stranded in the parking lot and was waiting for my turn to enter the parking area to park. I was behind four other cars. One by one all these cars were parked. Now it was my turn.
The parking guy: Here comes the parking guy. Who roams around with a parking ticket vending machine and shows the space for you to park. For him, you are just a car, nothing else. I saw the cars being parked in front of me, one by one. Now it was my turn, I turned my car inside, rolled down my window and looked at him, with a hope that either he will suggest to park it himself or will show me the easiest lot to park.
Unbiased behavior– The parking guy looked at me with no expression what so ever. He punched my car number on his machine and just handed me the parking ticket. By now I was even more nervous. I have never really parked in such a cramped space with cars everywhere, muddy all around because of drizzle just then and hurry to reach the counter too. My in-laws, both above 65 were also with me and they were nervous too. But the parking guy didn’t even bother to give any special assistance or attention.
Trust – I asked him in a tone of self-pity, half-heartedly expecting him to help and hoping to avoid to park myself, “Where to park”?. He casually pointed out towards the extreme corner, between two closely parked cars and with two trees on either side too. He did it so casually that I almost didn’t believe him. I asked again, he again pointed in that direction and started attending other cars. I was stunned, it was a pressure situation. Other cars will soon come inside, I don’t have much time to park, the counter might close soon, someone else might park there.
Encouragement– He casually came to me, and I was hopeful now that he will offer help and will take the keys from me or will help me park. He said, “Park it backward, madam”. It was like a double pressure situation. I was in shock, space is anyway so less, two trees on either side and then park it backward, impossible. This time he paid attention to my frown. I was so nervous that I remained quiet, then came his final word, “It’s enough space madam, lagalo aap”, with confidence, and went away.
Action and Reaction: It was the first time, a parking guy or anyone for that matter has shown so much trust and faith in my driving skills, considering being a female driver, driving a sedan in bad weather and cramped space, the situation was critical. Space was so less, that the back doors won’t even open. in any case, he didn’t know how good or bad a driver I am, but his behavior didn’t change. Parking backward had always been a problem. but then this is it. he sad.”lagalo”(you park”. )with such ease and faith that I felt confident too. I had never seen someone showing so much faith in lady driver, that too the one who is showing the least faith in herself.
Result. ; I asked my in-laws to step out, within seconds, because of that one sentence, “lagalo aap” was all that I needed. I was always offered support because of a lack of faith in such situations. He showed no sympathy or bias, he showed only faith. I turned my wheel, to the right extreme forward, and looked in my rare view mirror. The pressure was building as two other cars were waiting for me to park so they can find the next spot. The performance pressure was also kicking in. But the feeling of being trusted as a lady driver was overwhelming. I never felt that confident. The result is, I parked in one go with equal space left on both the sides, in 10 seconds without any scratch or killing someone.
Lesson – “Trust-based encouragement” is always better than “Hope based encouragement”.
Usually, when we encourage our team members or peers, we start by defining their potential to a certain level. for example by saying, “I know its challenging for you”, “Its okay to feel that way”. Then we start pushing them to do that very challenging task by showing hope in them, saying things like, “I am sure you can do it, I know you can, you at least try”. Then we sometimes give past reference too, for building a foundation for our hope, “Last time also you did that without any help, remember, I told you that time too, you could do it”. This is a “hope-based encouragement”. Trust me, we all know, it backfires most of the time. In this scenario, we take away the credit of effort from the person putting all the efforts, by saying “I know you can”. It shifts the focus from the doer to the pusher, which is just not right and can backfire or can make the other person feel even worst.
Trust-based encouragement: Starts with trust, not hope. Trust, just like the parking guy. It starts with no judgment, no bias, no reference to my field of knowledge, my gender, my potential, just trust. Then this trust is followed with direction. You don’t give empty lipservice of “Yes You Can”. You give a hint of action with trust. You use sentences like, “All you need to do is mark an email and get started”, “You make the quotation and send it”, just like the parking guy, “Its enough space, you park it, backward”. No past reference, no preconceived notion, no judgment, and also, No “pseudo mentoring”. Do not stand and become a mentor “on the head”. “Let me watch over you” is the worst case of showing no trust at all. Trust the person throughout and be the real mentor, by letting him finish his task on his own and learning it the right way through his own unique set of mistakes and perceptions.
Trust-based encouragement will take every individual/team on the long run. It boasts that inner fire of doing stuff, no matter how underrated we feel. The task is not to just get the things done, the task is to make the person capable and confident enough to do it on his own, every single time and to coach others too. That how capable leaders are fostered.
P.S. My parking guy’s name is Faizaan. You will find him in the parking lot of Artemis Hospital Gurgaon.