Principles are the codes by which we live our lives. Some of the principles we live by are programmed into us by our parents, others we pick up along the way. Some principles require work, practice, and intention. Others are simply ingrained in us and we practice them without even realizing it. As a company, we at IMS operate inside of a set of culture principles that give us a playbook for what we’re going to do and who we’re going to be. In order for principles to be more than just words in a company handbook or beautifully stenciled noise on the walls of a corporate office, they need to be practiced, trained and tested. They need to be lived. In this series, I’ll explore several of our IMS principles as well as a few others that have been top of mind. Today: Grace.
There’s a great story from the early days of IBM. I don’t know how true it is or if it’s just one of those things that takes on a life of its own, but it’s a cool story anyway. Tom Watson Jr., who took over as CEO from his father in the 50’s called a VP into his office to discuss a project that had cost the company ten million dollars. And failed. The VP arrived with his tail between his legs and his resignation letter in hand. When he handed over the letter, Watson pushed it back across the desk and said, “Why would I fire you when we just invested ten million dollars in your education?”
So what’s the point I’m trying to make? The VP had every right to think his days at IBM were over. In the business world, you make a ten million dollar mistake, usually you’re toast. But Tom Watson saw it differently. He didn’t view the failure of the project as a failure of the individual, but rather as an opportunity to learn and grow. Rather than being vindictive or “making an example” of the VP, Watson approached the situation with grace. It also turned out to be good business, clearly, as Watson led IBM to become one of the largest and most successful companies in the world.
But what exactly is Grace, and how do we incorporate it into our lives? Turns out grace means a lot of different things. It has a religious meaning: the approval or protection given by God, or a prayer said before meals. Like when grandma spies you across the table and says, “Darling, will you please say grace?” It can mean a temporary exemption or a period of time before a payment is due, a grace period. It can mean an ease and suppleness of movement or a pleasing appearance. It can mean having a sense of propriety like, “He had the grace to keep his mouth shut.” It can even be a verb meaning to confer dignity or honor on (also used sarcastically) like, “She graced us with her presence.”
But the kind of grace we’re talking about here is “the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful; the disposition to or an act of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.” With that in mind, we can see how grace can play a role in all aspects of life. In career, it’s about being secure enough to give away the credit, take the heat, truly uplift your team, especially when you’re in a leadership role. In relationships, it’s about giving the other person the best of it–not pointing out their faults or mistakes, allowing wobbles and not holding shit over their heads. And when it comes to health and vitality, sure we can train the body so that we have an “ease and suppleness of movement or a pleasing appearance”, but we can also hold grace with the body as we age.
Gayle just turned 57. But you wouldn’t know it. If you were to see Gayle, you’d probably put her at ten years younger. It’s not just about diet and exercise, although that obviously plays a huge role. It’s about the emotional state she holds around the experience of aging and the effect it has on her body. She knows she can’t fight it and she knows she can’t wish it away. So instead she’s decided to embrace it. Because even though it can be frustrating to have a wrinkle or a health challenge where we never had them before, there are plenty of great things about getting older too. Once Gayle accepted the fact that there’s no turning the clock back, she made the decision to embrace it instead.
Sure, 57 is just a number, but we have to accept there are certain realities that come along with that number. Gayle’s body may not be able to perform as it did when she was 27, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to put it out to pasture. By approaching the prospect of getting older with grace, Gayle is able to be “considerate and thoughtful” toward her body. She’s come to understand that in order to overcome limitations, she must first understand them and accept them rather than allow them to become walls she can never get over. As a result, Gayle has developed a nutrition and movement routine that’s appropriate for her body and her age and now she’s the fittest 57-year-old in the neighborhood. Just ask the other ladies at the community pool when Gayle comes to lounge in her zebra striped bikini.
We already looked at an example of Grace in business. And there’s a reason the story about Tom Watson Jr. has been remembered and passed down for nearly seventy years. Because in the dog-eat-dog world of business, grace can be hard to come by. Kyle works for a tech startup. He leads a team that’s responsible for creating and maintaining the public facing image of the company. Ten people work under Kyle and, lately, they’ve been getting a bit fed up with their boss.
Kyle tends to take credit for, well, everything that his team does. Even when he had little, or even no participation in the thing he’s taking credit for. It might be something his team members could overlook except that when things go wrong, Kyle is also quick to point the finger at someone else. The other day, Janet had the unenviable task of informing Kyle that a strategy he had already taken credit for wasn’t panning out as expected. Now Kyle could have taken a page out of Tom Watson Jr.’s playbook, but instead he lost his shit. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Janet ended up in tears and Kyle was left scrambling for a way to save face. Of course, all of that could have been avoided if Kyle understood that a little grace goes a long way.
Which brings us to relationships. It’s crucial to bring grace to the way we interact with the people in our lives. Take Brett and Naomi. Married for twenty years, together for twenty-five after meeting in a pizza joint near the college they both attended. Recently, Brett’s been dealing with some medical issues and, because when it rains it pours, the company Naomi works for is going under and her job is on the line. Needless to say, there’s been a lot of stress in the household lately and it would be easy for Brett and Naomi to turn that stress against each other.
Fortunately for Brett and Naomi, their teenage kids, the dog and the cat, the couple have been training their nervous systems to better manage their emotional states. Naomi knows Brett didn’t choose to have a health crisis and Brett knows Naomi doesn’t want to lose her job. They have some big challenges in front of them, but because they’ve learned to access higher love-based states, they will be able to face those challenges, and treat each other with grace.
The good news is, you too can train the nervous system and develop a set of guiding principles that will set you up for success and fulfillment in all aspects of your life. As I said, here at IMS, we follow a guiding set of culture principles that inform who and how we’re going to be. We strive to bring consideration, thoughtfulness, kindness, courtesy, and indeed Grace to our work, to our clients, and to each other as a team.
I work with high-achievers. People at the top of their game. My clients are individuals who want to make an impact—whether it is on their family, their community or the world at large—they have a drive and desire to be exceptional, and they want RESULTS. Part of creating those results is developing and training a principle of Grace. One of the places I go deep into training principles is with the Elite Cohort, a group of up to 20 individuals who drive together through a year-round curriculum led by yours truly. These folks want to optimize every area of life, and we get results.
The current Elite Cohort is full. The chemistry is just right, and the majority of people have been driving together for nearly 3 years now. However, my leadership team and I have our eyes on several clients who may be a great fit for this training, and will curate another Elite Cohort as candidates emerge. You can find more information at joeyklein.com/elite-cohort, and book an Alignment Call to explore what’s possible. I firmly believe that everyone deserves to live a life they love.