Have you looked in the mirror lately? Sure you have. We all do every day. But do we really see who’s staring back at us, warts and all? What I mean by that is when there is conflict in your life, how often do you look in the mirror to find both the cause and the resolution? You’ve probably heard the adage, every time you point a finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at you. Physically, it’s true. Try it. It is also metaphorically true. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that most, if not all, conflict starts right at home, inside us. The problem is that most of us can’t see it when we look in the proverbial mirror, even when it’s pointed out by someone else. Physically it’s because the 3 fingers pointing back at us are hidden beneath our hand (try it). So, we continue to blame other people for the conflict in our lives, whether at home, at work, church, or in the volunteer organizations in which we serve. And we continue to be unhappy with THEM. As if we are perfect! Is it because we can readily see them and not ourselves?
As leaders, colleagues, family members or friends, there are times when we must provide constructive feedback (less than positive) to others. For feedback to be effective it must be received as intended. How often is the message not received because the recipient can’t see what’s in the mirror that you are holding in front of them? I know from experience that is pretty frustrating. I also know and believe, however, that one of the reasons our feedback is not always received as intended is because, as the leader, maybe we should have looked in the mirror first! Ken Blanchard wrote in The Heart of a Leader, “If you want to know why your people are not performing well, step up to the mirror and take a peek. In most cases, the biggest cause of the problem is looking you in the eyes.” Ouch!
Next time you are upset with someone else, next time you are experiencing conflict in your life, whether at work or in your personal life, stop and take a look in the mirror first before you do anything else. You might just find the reason for your angst, and surprisingly the solution, staring back at you! Try it. This is called personal accountability. And personal accountability is one of the hardest measures of accountability there is. That’s why we employ trainers, life and leadership coaches, counselors, etc. Why? Because it’s easier for someone else to hold us accountable than it is to do it ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves, we are all afraid of what the “Man in the Glass” might say. The following poem about personal accountability struck a cord with me years ago. It has remained with me, in the back of my mind, nudging me to follow my passion and be true to myself. I’m not perfect at this personal accountability thing. In fact I struggle with it every day. But I will keep trying because if I don’t, the only person who I will truly end up disappointing is me.
The Man In The Glass
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.
For it isn’t your father or mother or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass.
The fellow whose verdict counts most in you life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
You may be like Jack Horner and chisel a plum
And think you’re a wonderful guy.
But the man in the glass says you’re only a bum
If you can’t look him straight in the eye.
He’s the fellow to please-never mind all the rest,
For he’s with you clear to the end.
And you’ve passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the man in the glass is your friend.
You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass.
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.