Lisagor: Relating to others

It is important to address a person’s flaws head on, but with compassion

I have been making a concerted effort the past few years to accept my life as it is, both good and bad, instead of obsessing about how I wish it would be.

In the past, I spent considerable energy trying to reach an elusive "there," meaning everything "good" — a promotion, a successful software delivery, a more pleasant boss or a little more money. It was almost impossible to enjoy my life when I was so busy waiting for something better to happen.

Speaking of elusive, I have also tried to work on how I relate to other people, especially business associates who give me grief. Many people I know have a tendency to label a manager who does something "bad" as being a bad person or something even more harsh.

But as long as we judge others to the extreme, expecting them to behave perfectly, there will never really be an effective organization, much less a more peaceful world.

When I get upset with someone for something they have done or said, I try to reflect on that specific behavior instead of declaring the individual a lost cause.

By awakening my compassion for that person as a fellow human, I am able to communicate my concern without going into attack mode. It often means getting to know someone at a deeper level than the size of their office or how they behave during meetings.

This approach was very effective with one of my clients. Her demanding management style was preventing her staff from feeling free to express their opinions. In meetings, they would fight over who got to sit at the end of the conference table farthest from her and her verbal barbs.

Finally, when her behavior started to upset me, too, I realized I needed to talk to her. First, I accepted that her behavior was the problem, not her as a person. I also accepted that I could lose a valuable client as a result of broaching this subject with her. But I decided that it was more important to try to speak out against what I perceived to be unacceptable behavior than to swallow the pain out of fear of retribution.

After I had an honest discussion with her, she actually thanked me for pointing out why her actions were inconsistent with her desired company culture. And instead of canceling my contract, the next day she invited my wife and me to dinner.

This breakthrough was made possible only by transforming my initial negative, general judgment into a meaningful and respectful dialogue.

I try to remember that everyone has a unique contribution to make. This increases my appreciation of family, friends, associates and myself.

As an added benefit, my happiness today doesn't have to depend on some elusive tomorrow.

This column is adapted from Lisagor's book "Romancing the Buddha," which will be published in May by Middleway Press. He founded Celerity Works in 1999 to help information technology executives accelerate and manage business growth. He lives on Bainbridge Island, Wash., and can be reached at

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group