A Story About Balance

Do you ever get annoyed at people who are different to you? Mr What and Mr How were long time, successful business partners and very different from each other. Mr What was obsessed with results. "What's the goal?" he would often ask. Approach him and his first question would be "What do you want?". He liked to make quick decisions and implement them. Because of his blunt, pushy nature Mr What wasn't very popular with staff, although he was respected because he got things done. While Mr What would stomp around the business, often with a flushed face and furrowed brow, checking on what was happening, Mr How had a different approach.

Mr How's face was calm, his eyes sparkled and he seemed to have all the time in the world. He would spend his days thinking about how things could be done better and considering how well people were working together. His opening question would always be "How are you?" and he really meant it because Mr How was one of the most curious people you'd be likely to meet. If you were stressed, flat or distracted he would notice, and he'd often reflect this back to you in a friendly, inquisitive manner. He might say, "You seem to be in rush this morning?" and he'd listen as you explained what was on your mind. After an encounter with Mr How you tended to feel lighter and be thinking more clearly.

One day in a management meeting, Mr What demanded to know what the strategy was for a new IT project and when it would be finished. A nervous manager reeled off some targets and facts. Mr What looked up from his papers and grunted "good". As he lowered his eyes back to his agenda ready to move onto the next item, Mr How cleared his throat. "Mr What, I'd like to explore this a little further please". He looked over to the manager and thanked him for his thoughts. Mr How then pushed himself slowly out of his chair and walked to a whiteboard at the end of the table. "Before we launch this system, have we considered how this decision will impact on our customers and the people that have to implement it?"

At this point Mr What started to tense up. He had a list of things to get on with and the meeting was now being delayed. But he had learned through experience to value the contribution of his colleague so he said, "Please go on Mr How". A half an hour later the whiteboard was filled with a plan on how the project would be implemented. The energy in the room was now upbeat as they all realised they had been missing a whole piece in the implementation that would have alienated staff and caused havoc with customers.

One day Mr What had a mild heart attack and was taken to hospital. A group of employees were huddled together and didn't see Mr How strolling through the office. As he approached he overheard a young woman say "Let's hope Mr How now takes over running the business, he's so much nicer than Mr What who is so rude". Mr How was shocked to hear someone talking so callously about his friend and his initial urge was to reprimand the employee. But he'd learned that "how" you go about doing or saying something is often more important than "what" you say. He also reminded himself of how hard these people worked and how grateful he was for their loyalty to the business.

"How are you all this morning?" he asked. A look of embarrassment came over the group as they looked up. "You have probably heard that Mr What is unwell. I feel bad because it has been Mr What's hard work, drive and commitment to our results that has largely caused his ill health. People must wonder at times how two people so different, like Mr What and I, can work so well together. My father was an ambitious, highly competitive man and used to criticise me for being too soft and thoughtful. He said I would never achieve anything. He was right until I teamed up with Mr What. With his direction on what we need to achieve, and my consideration of how we can best engage people, together we have built this successful business. The group nodded. Then the woman who had made the previous comment said "Mr How, I'd like to organise a card from everyone in the office wishing Mr What a speedy recovery and telling him how much we miss having him around."

Until next time, remember, it’s all about balance.

Greg Nathan

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