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Inspiration in Exasperation, Part 2

When certain songs are played, the people in the room suddenly find their rhythm. Their face lights up, their body starts moving, and words immediately come to mind.  It happens when songs like these come on:

   - Sweet Caroline
   - YMCA
   - The Devil Went Down to Georgia
   - We Will Rock You
   - I Heard It Through the Grapevine

After enduring one of the hardest days of my life, that last song started playing on the radio. I don't often listen to the radio, particularly the channel to which it was tuned. But unexpectedly, I was being serenaded by Marvin Gaye as he lamented the pain of a breakup. That's when my inspiration was revealed.

Ooh, I bet you're wonderin' how I knew
'Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys
You know I love you more

I Heard it Through the Grapevine, written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, describes the shock and hurt that's felt when someone learns surprisingly bad news through the grapevine. The grapevine is that infamous informal network of gossip that can convey information at light speed when the news is bad.

We've all suffered from that pain of hearing news from the wrong person. The grapevine can be heartless, and the consequences of misusing this network is often more negative for the sender than the hearer.

I remember my own experience of breakup through the grapevine. While in middle school, a girl that I liked broke up with me through the grapevine; it was embarrassing and it hurt (ha, here I am still talking about it...) but life goes on.

So where is the inspiration of which I spoke previously?

My epiphany was realizing that the chaos and conflict I had just endured with the teachers, coaches, parents, and students was rooted in the same pain that the song expresses. 

What we have here is a failure to communicate! We failed to manage the grapevine, respecting the inevitable yet informal laws that govern human interaction.

The coaches made a decision that they didn't have the authority to make, and then failed to communicate that decision to the teachers. Instead, the teachers were surprised to learn about this news through the grapevine. 

The teachers failed to engage their systems thinking and understand the consequences of their reactions and decisions on the relationships and culture.  They didn't listen through the filter of perspective that could have enabled a wiser response. 

Our culture quickly devolved into an unhealthy state because trust was withdrawn. 

The Perspective of the Grapevine

Unless one has committed himself/herself to living like a hermit without human interaction, everyone's success is determined by how effectively a network of trusted relationships is cultivated and sustained. In other words, our relational network provides not only important sources of wisdom and guidance but also opens doors to opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable. (See Dr. Michael Lindsay's book, A View from the Top)

Growing a network of valuable connections, similar to a vineyard of grapevines, is essential for success because it accelerates our development and broadens our perspectives. It's hard to think of a career path that doesn't involve significant relational ability and capital--even for those who work remotely.

So, how do we do that? How do we ensure that we're developing the habits that strengthen our network and help us be more successful? Those are the motivating questions that produced, The Laws of the Grapevine.

Trust is a fundamental ingredient of our grapevine. It is the oxygen that enables healthy conversations, cooperation, collaboration, and conflict resolution. Consistency is crucial to growing trust. Variability in our behavior and habits reduces our trustworthiness and increases the probability of stress.

It makes a difference when we are predictable in our expressions and mood, increasing the odds of achieving the desired outcomes and sustaining vital trust. Irrational, unexpected behavior is a major contributor to relationship and career failure.  People who are easily triggered into disruptive outbursts (a.k.a, "Karens") limit their ability to achieve needed reputational value and influence.

Of course, we build trusted connections slowly over time. Trust grows in months and years, and is killed in seconds. That's why consistency is so vital to our goals.

In the next post on, The Laws of the Grapevine, we will explore why transparency is a false claim for nearly every leader. Our commitment instead should be: No Secrets, No Surprises.

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