When I was thirteen, a group of relatives bought me the most beautiful watch I had ever seen. It was dainty; the oval face dotted with diamonds and emeralds. I never wanted to take it off.
My mom said I could only wear it for special occasions, but before I did, she said it must be insured in case something happened.
At thirteen, I wondered what could possibly happen. At thirteen, my point of view was the only viewpoint that mattered. So when I dressed for a special party at a country club a few days later, I put it on. My parents were out for the evening and I would be home before them, so they’d never know.
I was careful—really careful. I made sure the clasp was securely fastened and I kept looking at my wrist every few minutes to make sure it was there. I even took it off in the ladies’ room so I wouldn’t get it wet when I washed my hands.
Only, I forgot to put it back on. When I looked at my naked wrist a few moments later, I panicked. I ran back to the ladies room. It wasn’t there. I looked in every sink and under the stalls. I even rummaged through the trash. Not there either. I went to the front desk and told them what happened. They took my phone number and said they’d call if it showed up. It never did.
My parents were furious, but didn’t punish me. I was so upset about losing the watch that they probably thought that was punishment enough.
When I think back to that day some decades ago, I can still feel the panic in the pit of my stomach. It’s a feeling that surfaces in all of us from time to time, but for different reasons. Perhaps when we make a big mistake and try to cover it up or offend someone by saying something we shouldn’t have said. Maybe we tell a white lie and fear the consequences. Or maybe we’re worried about something that is totally out of our control.
In business, this is not productive. To lead, you must focus on the bigger picture and that means taking time to understand different points of view. While you may not always agree or implement their ideas, you’re communicating that you value their input and that inspires confidence in others.
As a reporter for many years, it was my job to gather both sides of the story which typically meant opposing viewpoints. I quickly learned that there are far more than two sides to every story and to do justice to multiple opinions, I had to strive for balance.
Strong leaders must also balance opinions by thinking forward. That means continually evaluating how a decision made today may impact the future. It also means communicating to those around you if you hope they’ll follow your lead. When you fail to consider the opinions others, you end up talking to yourself and that creates a false send of reality.
While disobeying your parents at the young age of 13 seems insignificant years later, the lessons learned carry into adulthood. For starters, many of us realize that adults often know more than we gave them credit for. And those of us who strive to have others follow our lead, we learn that we can’t lead if the only viewpoint we consider is our own.
I’ve owned a lot of watches since that day so many years ago. Beautiful watches bought by my parents and watches given to me by my husband. I even have a watch my grandmother left to me that means the world to me. But nothing will ever replace the watch I lost even though the lesson learned was just as valuable.