Gurudev builds bridges yet again !
We are a mirror of the society. We get affected by whatever is in the collective consciousness of the society and we can make an impact on it too. Ukraine is going through a huge crisis and Art of Living is not unaffected by it. Of the several teachers doing great work in Ukraine, there was a conflict between two well meaning, well intentioned, dedicated teachers.
They both arrived in the German Ashram and didn't want to see each others faces. The signature smile of Art Of Living was replaced with anger and frustration.To put it simply, they didn't look like happy people, let alone Art Of Living teachers!
All the efforts of our international coordinator, the international traveling teacher mentoring Ukraine,to mediate and make peace had failed. Any effort to bring them together only became worse.
In the German ashram, as elsewhere, Gurudev usually meets people in their country groups and listens to their issues and requests. In this case both these teachers did not want to see each other and be in the same room. They pleaded for a separate time with Gurudev.
They had intense interpersonal problems, and the mistrust, anger and hatred was very palpable.
Very patiently Gurudev invited one teacher to meet him first, then the next and then both together. What lasted for over an hour were conversations fraught with accusations, high emotions, tears, dis belief and mistrust. The way Gurudev handled it, at the end of the meeting both the teachers were hugging each other and promising each other of their support. Tears of sadness were transformed into tears of love and gratitude.
I got 5 very very valuable leadership lessons from the way Gurudev conducted this meeting.
1) Listen 100%
Though both the teachers kept talking about many minute details, some of which didn't make too much sense sometimes, Gurudev just listened. He didn't rush them,didn't interrupt them, didn't stop them or question them. He just let them talk and let off their steam. He just kept asking them to share more and listened intently. By the end of 15- 20 minutes that each of them spoke, they had nothing more left to speak and looked visibly relieved already!
Leadership learning - Expect differences of opinions and conflicts. When your team brings them to you, let them let out their steam. 50 % job is done already!
2) Don't judge or take sides
Not once in that one hour, did Gurudev judge either of the teachers or take sides. Even when what they spoke was totally opposite to each other, he did not think of one as good and the other as bad. One as right and the other as wrong. In fact, on a couple of occasions he appreciated each teacher to the other and the work they were doing. So both teachers could see that they were both doing good and important work for the organization .I could see, both teachers felt heard fairly and that itself kept the communication going!
Leadership learning- Don't judge or take sides in a conflict situation. A leader has to be neutral. By this, both sides will be able to bring their full case to the table, which is the only way the conflict can be potentially resolved.
3) Show that you care
Emotions ran high in this meeting. Gurudev, through his body language, concerned looks, compassionate approach showed how much he cared. He was passing around tissues, offering water, really being like a loving parent. Both the teachers were perfectly natural in their behavior and the warmth started blossoming between them too!
Leadership Learning- Even the best people in your team can have a bad day, a misunderstanding. If you show you care, they can overcome it.
4) Give a bigger vision
After listening and acknowledging their problems and challenges, Gurudev assured them of support and of finding a solution. He also gave them a bigger vision of how they have the responsibility of spreading happiness in their country and uplifting people. He said, people are waiting for you, so don't get caught in small little things. Think big, meditate. Things will resolve with time. He gave them such a big vision, that they themselves said that their disagreements felt like small things!
Leadership Learning- It is possible your team gets caught in small things and loses sight of the bigger goal. The biggest role of a leader is to keep uplifting his team towards this big goal !
5) Give Time
Despite being so busy, Gurudev spent over an hour with these two teachers! Not once did he rush them or let them feel what a tight schedule he has!
Leadership learning - Your team needs you, your time. Giving your time at the right time, can save many a disaster of later.
Two teachers who refused to be in each others company, left hand in hand with an inspiration for a better life. They left with strength, love and peace in their heart.I am so grateful to have been in the room to silently witness this amazing transformation. I learnt, what no book or professor could have taught me. Hope this note inspires you to take better leadership action too!
P.S – When I read this article to Gurudev, he actually suggested changes to it ! So not only did I get a leadership lesson, but also a lesson on how to write about it !!