Faithful, available, and teachable – three very simple ideas but profoundly important to leadership and to fostering healthy and successful organizations. My recent post about the zappos.com book addresses some of this but these three words are a bit more direct and perhaps even easier to understand and remember. I picked up on these words while listening to a speaker talk about how his organization selected and nurtured staff; his point – if you want committed and effective colleagues, be sure to assess if they are faithful, available, and teachable.
Faithful – beginning with the purpose of your organization, strive to identify and nurture faithful colleague who understand the grand vision you seek to fulfill. This faith reflects a conviction, and the willingness to act on it. And, the faithfulness reflects an understanding that the outcome of one’s efforts may not be predictable. Faithfulness to a vision is essential if any of us is to have a ghost of a chance of fulfilling our personal or organizational visions but there is another kind of faith that is equally important – faithfulness in our relationships – building trust, cooperation, and care that allows us all to do our best work.
Available – reflecting not only availability in time and space, a good colleague is available to live in the moment, be present, and attend to relationships and work. Have you ever shared something deeply important to you with someone you felt you could trust, only to feel empty and bewildered once the moment was behind you? In this example, the likelihood is that, regardless of your passion in the moment, the “other” was evidently not available to join you. Compassion, to live as if you are the other, is the kind of availability that really connects us with each other and our aspirations.
Teachable – demonstrating more than a capacity to learn, a person who is teachable is curious and eager to explore new possibilities. Most of us have a lot to learn and in our better moments admit that our understanding of pretty much everything has its limits. However, it is another thing to be a curious learner at every turn, ready to explore, to question, and to engage in order to bring new insights to the surface even when we believed that we were already well informed.
Realizing how powerful the FAT ideas were, I continued to reflect on these words throughout the weekend. To my surprise, a chance encounter with “Three Idiots” brought the FAT paradigm into full reality. “Three Idiots” is a film that I’ve heard about a number of times. It is a Bollywood movie that was recommended by a friend on numerous occasions but I never got around to viewing it until Friday night. I viewed this delightful film without English subscripts yet was able to understand most of the plot without the slightest difficulty. I was mesmerized by the acting, the predicaments, the humor and poignancy and then suddenly realized that I was seeing FAT in action. Three college-bound Indian boys are randomly brought together as roommates and develop a bond that allows them to discover purpose in their own lives that is quite remarkable. While the immediate and explicit purpose of their experience at university is to graduate with engineering degrees, along the way they discover the power of deep friendship, of faith that they will accomplish their goals if they help each other, and availability that brings them to each others’ aid in numerous precarious circumstances. Ultimately, the film demonstrates that not allowing oneself to be forced into boring, didactic, and demeaning learning can result in personal transformation and it can also offer the opportunity to encounter each other in ways that are deeply moving. “Three Idiots” is a beautiful coming of age saga that should not be missed by anyone who cares about education, relationships, and discovering how being faithful, available, and teachable can transform the lives of young people.