Writer / Aaron Tevebaugh
As I look to my last year in office as an Avon town councilor, I have spent some time reflecting on the last seven years. Though I was able to have many moments of accomplishment that I am very proud of, there were also times when I made mistakes along the way. The good thing is that every time I fell short, I attempted to turn the situation into an opportunity for learning and growth.
One area I spent a great deal of time learning from was the absolute power that interpretation has over our lives. The broad spectrum of interpretation has always been at the top of my focus in the leadership development world. We know that conflict often manifests from miscommunication or misinterpretation of information, but is this something we can work to resolve or prevent?
Our interpretations in life are based on our frame of reference, our values and beliefs, and our mindset. These create the lens for how we see the world. Have you ever wondered how it is possible that two people can receive the exact information, at the exact same time, in the exact same place, but have completely opposite opinions of what the information means or represents? Political debates are a good example of this. Regardless of your party or views, how can two reporters from two different news affiliates watch the same debate and each declare a different candidate to be the winner?
How we see the world and how we interpret the words and actions of others has a great deal to do with our ability to be successful. People are human and make mistakes constantly. Some of these are mistakes of the mind, while others are mistakes of the heart. Our mindset further guides how we view these situations. Using the age-old example of whether a cup is half empty or half full, our mindset determines, among many things, how we see others. Our ability to interpret situations and decide if the actions of others are intended to be malicious impacts how we will react.
When we believe we have become a victim and that others are responsible for doing us wrong, we go into blame mode to protect ourselves from any responsibility in the situation. Generally we do not see blaming others as releasing control of our lives, but think about this for just a minute. If we have zero accountability in a situation and the other party has 100%, what can we change to resolve the situation or prevent another from occurring? We have no ability to change or improve because we have unknowingly delegated all that authority to the other party through blame.
A more effective alternative to blame is asking ourselves the question, “What part of this do I own?” Now that we have recovered authority for change, we must self-reflect to determine not so much a quantitative amount of ownership, but where exactly we went wrong in the situation.
Unconditional self-accountability is probably the most powerful tool a person possesses in leadership. Because we only control what we can control, which is ourselves, we can only be responsible for our own actions. Unconditional self-accountability can put the control of your life back in your hands, improve trust, and increase the effectiveness of a team’s operations in any situation.
Can we work to see the world from a broader scope, slow down to think what an opposing party might be thinking or feeling, and strive to ask ourselves what part of any situation we may have ownership in, all while attempting to improve communication of our expectations to others? I believe the answer is yes to all of these. The actual question is, how high of a priority will you make this in your everyday life?
Aaron Tevebaugh is a leadership development consultant, trainer, and the owner of Foundations of Leadership. Tevebaugh has been a member of the Avon Town Council since 2015. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.