The Andy Griffith Solution: Getting a Good Read on the Issue at Hand
Article Date: Sunday, July 08, 2012
Written By: Mike Wells
We lost a wonderful teacher of values when Andy Griffith passed away earlier this month. Many of you know well the sweet wisdom and charm of Sheriff Andy Taylor, the iconic sheriff of Mayberry conceived and so artfully shaped by Andy Griffith fifty years ago. That wisdom and charm are two of the reasons why you can see an old black and white Andy Griffith show in any television market in the country on most any day of the week. Wisdom and insight are hard to find, and even more rarely distilled so simply and poignantly. But we see them routinely in this wonderful program.
I wrote the piece below several months ago. It is an imperfect attempt to capture some of Sheriff Taylor’s kind and knowing view of what matters most of all. He always saw us with such a forgiving twinkle in his eye, didn’t he?
So long, Sheriff Taylor, dear friend of us all.
If you read enough books and articles on decision-making, you will come to realize intelligence and experience are often trumped by human tendencies that date back to the dawn of time. Add to that prejudices and preferences we have collected, particularly in our very formative days, or in a number of one-shot successes or failures. It is no wonder we make so many bad choices in life when we seemingly should know better.
“We can only see what we have grown an eye to see,” says Rachel Remen.
Just in my post-World War II lifetime, we have seen many mistaken views about women and race. When I was in college in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, a number of the most elite colleges and universities in the country finally admitted women and more than a token number of minority students. Failing to harness talent in a majority of people in the entire country (women plus racial minorities) for so long should give all of us pause about our ability to get it wrong, and sometimes to get it profoundly wrong.
We make poor decisions not because of what we know but because of what we think we know that is not so; not because of what we see, but because we think we see more than we do.
“Ninety percent of errors in thinking are due to errors in perception,” said Edward do Dobo. This is why surveys abound, lawyers use mock juries to test run a case, and HR departments use 360 peer reviews of key employees. The smart money is on those who recognize they may not see what others see, after all.
All of which is to say: It’s an art form to be able to see clearly something of real importance from another person’s point of view.
Andy Taylor, the iconic sheriff of Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show, knew this art form well. If a challenge arose, Sheriff Taylor would hit upon the solution at a key moment. The solution deftly shifted the affirming spotlight to another and valued that other person’s point of view. He saw more clearly than others the vulnerabilities in others, and he shored them up. It was never about him.
When Sheriff Taylor did misstep, as he sometimes did with his women friends, he was quicker than you and me to see it and admit it. A rare skill, that.
Whether you are building a brand on the Internet, or at the courthouse, the success of that brand is going to be predicated on these core values: trying to see things from another point of view; recognizing that you sometimes get it wrong; and being willing to admit your mistakes.
Which are various ways of describing solid relationships that engender TRUST.
What I’ve learned about life on the way to the courthouse is this: If you want to succeed in life, learn to get a better sight line. The better sight line will be enhanced immeasurably when you also genuinely consider the other person’s point of view. When others trust you to see past your concerns, you focus thoughtfully on their concerns, and you have the strength to admit your mistakes, people are going to beat a path to your door and value what you do.
Just ask any friend of Sheriff Taylor.
NCBA President Mike Wells of Winston-Salem regularly contributes columns and commentary to the Winston-Salem Journal, radio station WSJS 600-1200, and WFDD, the local NPR affiliate based on the campus of Wake Forest University. The preceding article is published with the author’s permission for distribution to NCBA members via e-barand www.ncbar.org, the NCBA website.