Leading and Loving “Bent Nail” People

by Andy Wood on March 21, 2010

in Ability, Enlarging Your Capacity, Leadership, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Pleasers

(The Law of the Nail, Part 2)

In the previous post I introduced you to The Law of the Nail.  A corollary to the Law of the Hammer (“If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”), the Law of the Nail says,

If you are a nail, and especially if you’ve been pounded a time or two, everything (and everybody) looks like a hammer.

That’s even true when you’re a light bulb, not a hammer.  Just watch the video:

Everybody gets banged up by people or by life sooner or later.  But sometimes we are faced with situations in which we must work with, lead, or love people who, in nail terminology, are really bent up.

Because you are on the same planet, much less in the same building or  room, they don’t trust you.  Doesn’t matter whether you have earned their mistrust or not.  They perceive, speak, and reason through their woundedness.  And as far as they’re concerned, you’re just another hammer, waiting for your chance to pound away at them.

So what do you do with these people?  Make their fears come true?  Write them off?  Get offended?  Ignore them?

I’d like to suggest that you have an opportunity to both get the job done (whatever “the job” is) and be an instrument of healing.  Here are some ideas:

1.  Move like they’re aiming a loaded weapon at you.

In the words of the old sci-fi flicks, show them you mean no harm.  Move slowly.  Talk calmly.  Keep your hands (and intentions) visible at all times.  No surprises (even nice surprises).  No secrets either, except where absolutely necessary.  Communicate with openness and clarity.  In other words, earn their trust.  Let them know you intend to be completely safe.

2.  Listen supportively and attentively to their story.

Everybody has one, but bent nails are still reeling from theirs.  Listen with care and concern, even if you don’t agree or think they’re overreacting.  If this is on “company time” you may tend to resist this as unprofitable or even inappropriate.  Get over that; you need to see this as a long-term investment in the success of your organization.

3.  Speak to them often in the language of purpose.

Bent nail people are just as purposeful as anyone else.  But they get lost in the hard pounding they have received from others or from life.  Losing sight of their purpose, all they have to focus on is how bad it hurts or why they should be offended or bitter.  It may not be your job to “straighten them out,” but you can still be a reminder to them that they were created for a purpose and nothing has changed about that.

4.  Don’t sympathize at the expense of your vision or organization’s mission.

Instead, show them how they are critical to it.  Jesus is a prime example of this.  He extended love and sympathy to many people.  He also finished what He started in His own mission – and insisted others do the same.  I see Jesus showing kindness and sympathy to bent-up Peter as they were having fish for breakfast.  I don’t see Jesus excusing Peter to get two years of therapy while the mission of the early church languished.

5.  Be an example of the strength you want them to demonstrate.

Model the role.  Show them how you have dealt with your own bent, banged-up condition.

6.  Never apologize for calling them to greatness.

While sympathy and support are vital, sooner or later you have to take the emotional training wheels off – even if it requires what Michael Hyatt calls a “difficult conversation.”

It really comes down to taking a stand for the greatness of others. People have way more potential than we often think they do. They can change, but unless we find the courage to speak up, they may not have the opportunity.

7.  Avoid the “fix them” trap.

It’s your job to love them.  Lead them.  Encourage them.  But not fix them.  That’s God’s job, and you’d best leave it to Him.

Of course you can decide that you’ll only do business, or work with, or be in relationships with, people who have it all together and have never been banged up.  Good luck with that.  You’ll either be:

1.  Rocking babies all day, or

2.  Very lonely.

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