The other day, I was stopped at a traffic light, waiting for my turn to go through the intersection. Soon, a beautiful convertible passed in front of me. A woman was driving while a man sat in the passenger’s seat. He had the seat pushed back as far as possible making him almost vertical. Wearing sun glasses and a nifty hat, I imagined him to be enjoying the afternoon sun and the smooth ride. As the convertible passed out of sight, the car pulling in next to me got my attention. Making a right turn were two vehicles. The driver in the front car saw that he could make it through the intersection safely and he waved to the driver in the second car. It was then that I noticed the woven strap linking the two cars. The driver in the second car waved back and turned his wheel as he was towed around the corner.
Two men in two cars, neither was controlling the direction of their path nor the speed of their vehicle. I assumed that the man in the convertible was happy and the man in the towed car was not. But, as I continued to wait for the traffic light to change, I realized that I might have it totally upside down. Perhaps the man in the convertible was leaning back because illness had stripped away his strength. And, maybe the man being towed was pleased to have a car to work on with a son, allowing them to grow closer as they explored the exciting world of an internal combustion engine.
My perceptions of them made no difference in their lives nor their futures. But, that is not true with people close to us; what we assume about them impacts us both. Let me share an example.
A few years ago, I had a colleague who seemed to have it all together. A beautiful woman, she was confident and capable. I knew her by her outstanding reputation and appreciated that she was on the fast track. It shocked me to get a product from her that was far below acceptable; there were so many errors that I quit counting after a few minutes. Privately, I asked her to explain why she had turned in such poor work; she immediately broke into tears. Through sobs, she shared that the doctors had told her that if her son took drugs one more time, the barrier that protected his brain would be breached; her son would suffer irreversible brain damage. On that day, the broken promises, the failed treatment programs, the fortune lost did not matter. She was losing the battle for the life of her son. In my rush to make assumptions about her, I had ignored clues of trouble waters and I had made our working together harder than it needed to be.
Look carefully at the people around you. Do we really know what is going on in their lives? What burdens may they be carrying? When we care about people, we make connections. When we make connections, we can work as a team. If you are trying to build a team, start by caring.
“But God told Samuel, ‘Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature, I’ve already eliminated him. God judges people differently that humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.’” (I Samuel 16:7)