Why I Ceded Control to a Stranger (and how you can get others to do the same)

Tomorrow morning my wife and I head to the hospital in anticipation of a planned c-section for the birth of our second son, Micah.  Because of this, I have been thinking back a lot to a post from a couple years ago, when my first son was born.  Below is the post.

My son, Jedidiah was born in January of 2007. He spent his first 3 weeks in an intensive care unit. The first couple days were very scary. There was a lot of uncertainty regarding the future. Since then he has made a remarkable and full recovery. He is a happy and healthy little boy full of energy with a short attention span (I wonder where he gets that from? Do you like turtles?).

I learned alot during that time. Medical terms, how to sleep for 12 minutes at a time twice a day, how to hold a baby on a respirator and iv’s, lots of interpersonal relationships skills, so on and so forth.

But I also learned something about leadership and the art of influence. In the midst of all that chaos, the doctor never seemed stressed, and still seemed to genuinely care for my son and my family.

As I reflect back on the three weeks in the hospital, I only remember being asked one single question. Everything else was told to me. Not in a pushy forceful way, but in such a way as I understood the unspoken, “It is whats best for your son, I’m the expert.” The doctors and nurses told me what they were doing, what they hoped to accomplish, and why. All of this was not presented as options and price was never even mentioned. (Later when I recieved the bill I nearly had a heart attack, but then heard my son laugh and realized that it didn’t matter.) Budgets were not talked about.

I never questioned the doctors. They said this is what is happening and I believed that they were making the right decision. I trusted them not with an arbitrary decision, but with my son’s life.

The question remains, why? Why would I let a stranger make some of the most important decisions I have ever been faced with? Why would I entrust my son’s life to someone who to this day I still could not tell you his name? And more importantly, why can you not command that same respect from those whom you lead, your clients, even your coworkers?

The answer I believe lies in the doctors demeanor from the moment I first met him. Confident, caring, concerned. I knew he was the expert even though I had no evidence. Some of you are already complaining, but Scott, he’s a doctor I’m just a _______(fill in your career here). But, that misses the point, I never saw his medical degree, I don’t know if he was a resident, a fellow, the chair of the dept, or a nurse practitioner. I know he presented himself as a the one who had the answers; answers I desperatley needed.

So what did I learn from this? I learned that a genuine desire to help people, coupled with a sincere belief that I can help people, along with a dash of ability to help those people, will give me unlimited opportunity to lead, influence, sell, persuade, teach…You should get the idea.

10 replies on “Why I Ceded Control to a Stranger (and how you can get others to do the same)”

  1. this was a really interesting post. i’m so glad everything worked out and he’s doing great. 🙂

  2. Your thoughts on giving up control to a stranger make me wonder why people have such difficulty giving up control of their lives to a loving God. Every day we trust others with our very lives. Other drivers on the road, the people who make our food, etc. These “strangers” may or may not care for our personal lives at all. Yet we continue to trust them with our lives. Why, then, is it so hard to trust Jesus, who says that we are his friends, we are loved, and that he wants the best possible life for us. I think you are right that we need to speak to people with boldness, but the message needs to be one of care, not simply arguing who is right and who is wrong. Doctors don’t try and persuade you to do the right thing, they tell you the truth of the situation, and then let you decide. I think we could learn a great deal from this.

  3. I agree with what you are saying. My point is that the doctors demeanor and approach was such that I did not question in the first place. I was, in not objecting or questioning, making the decision you speak of. I do not like arguing at all. My point is exactly that, the doctor didn’t need to argue with me because he used a better approach. The opposite can be said for the church. Often times people spend all of their time arguing rather than loving and speaking truth into peoples lives. In leadership, sales, ministry or medicine one need not argue, scream, belittle, fight, etc. Treat people with dignity and respect and they will want to listen to you.

  4. Oh, forgive me if I sounded oppositional, I was completely agreeing with you. I was merely musing on the topic at hand. Your insights into your interactions with the doctor made me think. I appreciate your discussion and willingness to share openly with others on the journey.

  5. Hey Scott,

    I think you underestimate the fact that doctors are totally revered in our society. No offense, of course, but I think your trust in him probably had a lot to do with his position and the way our society works, if only on a subconscious level.

    Would you have let me do whatever to your son, if I had the right demeanor? No. While the way you treat people is extremely important, unfortunately, I don’t think we can possibly garner the same trust with spiritual matters that doctors have with medical matters.

    In most American’s minds, medical things are exact science and doctors know what they’re doing (although, IMHO it’s not and they don’t). Also in their minds, spiritual things are ethereal and they claim no one is an expert, and they distrust self-proclaimed “experts” on spiritual matters.

    Therefore, I agree that respecting and loving people is our best strategy, but I don’t think it will work like your example.

  6. With half the nation up in arms wanting universal healthcare and saying the those in medicine aren’t entitled to a profit and if they do make a profit then they are greedy, I fail to see how one could possibly believe doctors are revered any longer. Regardless though if you refer the the last paragraph of the original post I did refer to needing to have the skill set to do the task at hand.

    With regards to ministry application I believe that this would be reflected in living a life that makes others desire learning more. Social justice and advocacy, integrity, etc. Claiming to be a “spiritual expert” puts you in the Pharisee category. Living a life of sacrificial love, as Christ did makes you a “doctor” in terms of our current conversation.

    Obviously with a broad topic such as this post there will be differnces in certain applications, but an approach to all areas of life that is based on a genuine concern for others will always yield better results.

  7. I heard an professor at a conservative Christian college tell the story of his outreach to a single mom in the Mormon church.

    She told her story, which was very sad, of being poor and heartbroken and not having any options. She thought back to her youth and remembered going to church with her folks and thought maybe they would have some answers. She visted a few local churches and all but one said they would pray for her and gave her a box of food or something. But the one that was different they got together their network of people and one person had a vacant home he was willing to offer her rent free while she got back on her feet, the church itself got her a job as secretary, they rallied around her and helped with her emotional needs, they sent their teens over as babysitters. After all this she realized that the answer she was looking for was the LDS church.

    I am not advocating for LDS but simply saying most people in church feel they have all the answers but there is a dramatic difference between claiming to be the expert and presenting yourself in such a way that people believe it while yet unstated.

  8. Talk about an experience… I’m so glad that everything worked out well! I went through a similar experience with my son — the pregnancy itself was very difficult and there were complications. After he was born, there were other specialists and trips to the hospital. Now 2+ years old, he’s doing great.

    What were my lessons here? My wife and I returned to church after spending a few years away; this was a true blessing. Life is far more fragile that most people believe – faith is very powerful. I also realized that my life needs to be aligned to who I am (still in progress)

    Now, as far as doctors go, there were some that were beyond reproach. There were others that I questioned and took a strong position against because I believed that they were wrong. Finding people (medical or otherwise) that can represent your interests in a positive manner is critical. Best of luck!

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