Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Dog and a Polar Bear

I recently started reading the book the five keys to mindful communication by Susan Gillis Chapman. In the beginning, she tells the story that goes with the pictures that you can find here. As she tells it, Churchill the dog was tied to a stake outside a cabin somewhere in the Arctic. The owner (National Geographic photographer Norbert Rosing) spotted a polar bear coming towards his dog. The owner knew he was already to late to do anything, so he grabbed his camera. What came next surprised him. Churchill didn't get defensive; he started wagging his tail playfully as the bear approached. The bear didn't act aggressively either, he responded to Churchill's behavior and started playing with him. As the story goes, the bear came back on several occasions to play with Churchill. 

This story is a great lesson for how we communicate. If we get defensive, putting up a wall, our conversation will be different than if we are open and engaging when someone approaches us. Early in the book, Chapman talks about how we need to pay attention to how we respond and have an open mind. She talks about moving away from "Me-First" to "We-First" in our relationships.

This last idea started me thinking about Servant-Leadership. A project manager that practices Servant-Leadership thinks in terms of how they can help the team before they think about themselves. They are aware of their team's needs and they listen.

So next time you are in a conversation, stop and be aware of how you are communicating. Are you really paying attention to what the other person is saying or are you going on the defensive and preparing your next response? 


Anonymous said...

This is a great post - I typically do a great job with the 'we-first' when working with my team. But I have to remember to 'wag my tail' and be engaged with the users (as opposed to setting up a defense... we do great work and I shouldn't be preparing for a confrontation.) This story of the Dog and a Polar Bear will help me remember.

Thank you!

Bob Tarne said...

Thanks for the comment. We can bring our own self-fulfilling prophecy to a situation, so our attitude walking in can impact what happens.

I said...

"A project manager that practices Servant-Leadership thinks in terms of how they can help the team before they think about themselves." I couldn't agree more! I would also like to share this line: Humility does not mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.