Guilty Lessons for Success

By Thomas Jakobs November 03, 2011

Guilty Lessons for Success

By: Thomas Jakobs

As I was reviewing our Be Extraordinary program on our one-year anniversary, I was pleased that all of our clients with technology are making good progress. You might say “duh Tom, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen?” Yes, but the reality is assistive technology often doesn’t have the intended impact. Here are the lessons that I’ve learned from Be-X:

  1. Be patient. Life for people with disabilities is not the same as life without disabilities. Unexpected interruptions like medical complications and hospital stays are the norm.
  2. Stay in touch. We make a concerted effort to stay in touch with our clients. We strive to know when they are struggling physically, when they are struggling emotionally, and when life is going well.
  3. Be responsive. We can’t install equipment on our schedule. We need to be there when the timing is optimal for our clients.

Doesn’t sound all that insightful, does it! But nearly every organization I know is focusing on being efficient, and the above is not efficient. Be-X requires a different model, one based on relationship.

I think the three points above are good advice for any relationship -- being a parent, a spouse, or a friend. But being an organization based on relationship is "out there". There is so much pressure to be efficient, even when it doesn’t produce good results. And building relationships is hard work for everyone involved, including our clients and the family members who care for them. Who has time for this? Who can afford it? We all have too much to do. And then there is the biggest problem of all – guilt.

Almost every caregiver I talk to lately starts our conversation with “sorry”. Sorry I didn’t call you back quickly. Sorry I haven’t done better. Sorry I can’t meet on Thursday. And to be honest, I usually feel guilty too – sorry we didn’t get that new software finished yet, sorry that there is a cost. The list goes on – and it needs to stop. I know you are doing your best. So am I.

What do you think about having a moratorium on guilt? Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t call me back immediately, my assumption is that you are doing your best with the time you have. When something doesn’t get done, I’m assuming you did your best. You have nothing to be guilty about; you’re doing your best. I hope you’ll do the same for me. Let’s share our lives as best we can, with no “sorry” needed. Deal?