I heard a story not too long ago from a hiring official. A young man came in for an interview, but the interviewer cut the interview short, thanked the young man, and let him know he wasn’t a good fit for the position or the company.
The young man complained and asked why the interview was cut short. The interviewer pointed out that the young man had spent the entire time looking at his phone. Such blatant behavior indicated a lack of respect and of interest in the position or the company.
That’s bad enough, but there’s more! A little later, the interviewer received a phone call from the young man’s parents protesting that their son did not get offered the job.
I certainly hope that this was an exception and an extreme case, but it highlights a distressing trend that can be seen in many segments of US society. Sometimes it seems these are divides that cannot be bridged!
The Maturity Continuum
Lately, I have been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. One thing that has really stood out to me in the first couple of chapters is his discussion of the maturity continuum. He says there are three levels:
- dependent – relies on others to get needs met, blames others for problems
- independent – relies on self to get needs met, takes responsibility for own situation
- interdependence – relies on team or community, helps the group achieve goals
It has struck me that there is much in US culture that encourages a dependent attitude. There are not as many now as perhaps in the past that achieved a truly independent mindset, and even fewer who make it to the level of interdependence. I see evidence every day online.
First Steps for a Change
This is a trend we can not change overnight, and I have discovered that you can’t force people to become more mature. Change must start with individuals.
So what can be done?
- Check your own level. How often do you blame others – your boss, Congress, the economy – for your misfortunes? Make sure you have moved out of the dependent level yourself. It is so easy to shift blame that I have to check myself from time to time.
- Check your interactions. Are you enabling someone’s dependence? Or are you letting the people in your life – the one’s you would do anything to protect – experience the consequences of their choices? Make sure you are supporting those around you in their progression to independence and interdependence. As an instructor, I try to provide a safe space for people to “fail” and learn, and therefore grow, so that when they are in a real situation, they are better prepared.
- Check your focus. Are your efforts primarily for your own success? Or are you intentionally working to build a team and help others to experience success? When the pressure is on, it is natural to focus on achieving your own goals first, but if we want to achieve interdependence – and the benefits of collaboration and teamwork that come with it – we have to become “others-focused” instead.
Self-evaluation can be painful, but if we want to heal our society as well as our personal lives, it is worth a little temporary pain to move forward.
Where do you fall on the maturity continuum? What steps can you take today to move forward?