What’s Your Story?

We are always making assumptions about others, ourselves and our situations. We naturally create stories based on our past experiences as a way of ensuring our safety. 

David, a manager, shared with me that team members did not support his ideas and were out to make him look bad. He felt frustrated. With this story, he worked harder to demonstrate his expertise and how he was correct in his proposals. However, the harder he worked to demonstrate he was right, the less he seemed able to inspire people to listen and align around a strategy. 

When we “know” we are right and feel such frustration and contraction, we need to stop and take a look at the story we are telling ourselves. We could say to ourselves or a coach or friend, “The story I am telling myself is . . . that my colleagues are not interested in what I have to say and that they are even against me.”  Then we can assess what is a true fact or observation and what is our assumption or judgment. It is true that team members questioned the findings. They asked, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?”  Is it true that they are against you? This is more likely your story and your self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The more David believed his colleagues were against him, the more he pushed for his ideas with the leader and others and the less he involved his colleagues in his process. It was his internal story that they were against him that ironically influenced his moves that alienated him.  We can only control ourselves and not others. (And managing ourselves is not easy.)

When David became aware of his role in the tangle, he was able to take the first moves to listen and include colleagues in his thinking process during development and to show that he was a team player. He reflected on what he appreciated about team members and became more caring toward them. He was able to forge a more positive and healthy dynamic. 

By questioning our stories and separating facts from assumptions, we are better positioned to create more positive and productive relationships and unparalleled results.

Are You Creating an Environment of Respect?

A senior leadership team was surprised to see negative scores on an employee engagement survey. I conducted focus groups and confidential interviews to learn more. Like many organizations, the company had gone through significant changes and restructurings and this caused uncertainty.  However, the thing that seemed to be at the core of the negative scores was the experience of a lack of inclusion or respect. People did not feel that their managers cared about them or listened and valued them. A climate of distrust had been created where people did not openly speak with one another.

The cost is high when people don’t feel valued. Usually they believe it is because of the way they look or their function or role. When people feel there will be retribution for speaking up even more energy is required to create an open and inclusive environment where people feel engaged.

Just as in any relationship, we need to take stalk of the climate we are creating. Are we respecting others and seeing them as individuals with hopes and needs?  How you can create an open and inclusive environment? Begin by genuinely engaging in conversations to demonstrate interest and respect.

Look for Humor Amidst Polarization

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“I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.”— Frank A. Clark

A client told me how angry he was with his long-time business partner. “How can he be so stupid?”  The partners were disagreeing again about something they heard in the news. One assured the other that President Obama did not wire-tap the Trump Tower in New York. The other partner as vehemently stated that it was true. Neither actually knew the truth at the time. Both felt agitated by the news and were confident that they were “right.”  

The challenge for these long-time business partners is that because they began to assert their view and consider the other wrong and unintelligent, they began to experience their trust disintegrating.  My client was stressed and talked to me and others about his incredulity. Their disagreement drained their energy. What’s more, they also began to see division in their organization, as staff members began to take sides. A lot of energy was wasted around this simple disagreement.  

What could they do?  I empathized with my client and supported him in cooling down. He did not want the political divide and polarization taking place in Washington to hurt his business and his stress level and health. While he felt that he was “right” on this issue and many related issues, he practiced breathing and recalling that his partner did indeed have many positive characteristics.  Even more important, he valued their relationship. He appreciated our discussion about how our background experiences color our perception and have each person paying attention to different data. As a result, everyone comes to a slightly different (or vastly different) conclusion.  My client wanted to remain open to his partner. He remembered to “assume positive intent.” We concluded that using humor would be a viable option. He agreed that he wanted “success” with his partner more than being “right”.

So my client began to look at the humor of the situation. Here they were arguing over things that were out of their circle of influence.  Isn’t it amazing how people can see things so differently? My client was able to perceive future differences with a lighter attitude and was not so committed to being “right”. He imagined a dog letting go of a coveted bone. He joked about how his old problem of being “right” was emerging, like his old knee injury from high-school sports. Most importantly, my client laughed at himself for becoming so committed to being right when it really didn’t matter that much to him.

I also encouraged my client to recall what he liked about his business partner and longtime colleague.  He was able to identify many strengths including his ability to attract clients and manage staff and he was fun to be with (most of the time).

Look for ways you can be open-minded when you face a colleague with a different view. See the humor in your polarization and laugh first at yourself for your desire to be “right” and the costs associated.  It is useful to look at the bigger picture and the common ground. In this case, my client and his partner both wanted their business to succeed as well as their friendship.

Let me know how it goes for you. Contact us at www.Potentials.com.

Being Authentic is Key to Connecting with Others

respectExcerpted from: OASIS Conversations: Leading with and Open Mindset to Maximize Potential

This is the third in a series of tips for more effective communication.

Focus on the goal of being authentic and true to yourself in your interactions while looking for win-win solutions. Years ago, I worried about spelling out these details of how to communicate because I thought some people might use them to manipulate others, but I don’t worry anymore. When you are not interested in another person’s needs and just your own, people seem to sense this pretty quickly. If people think you are using techniques to pull something over on them, or gain an advantage, they generally won’t be supportive in return. Although using the process to create a situation where you win and the other person loses may work a few times, in long-term relationships, it won’t. So explore your motives; make it your intention to be authentic. Reveal some of yourself, showing you are human, and have the goal of understanding others and coming to an agreement that will benefit those involved.

Tell the truth—as much of it as you know or can. Otherwise, you will lose credibility with people and they may not believe you next time. I remember a colleague who often exaggerated or simply said things that were not accurate. As people became aware of this pattern, they did not want to work with her, which caused a lot of problems for her and her coworkers.

Actually, if you have good intentions and state what is accurate, most people will be willing to work with you and grow to trust you. When you do make mistakes, acknowledge them, make amends, and move on. After a CEO apologized to staff for a difficult reorganization, staff members were able to stop fighting him and resume work. Most of the time, people will forgive you, recognizing that everyone does make mistakes occasionally. After all, we are all human.

When we are authentic and have integrity, congruence occurs with what we say (words), our posture or how we hold ourselves (body language), and our emotions or mood (tone). Seminal research by Albert Mehrabian based on experiments dealing with communicating feelings and attitudes shows that when there is incongruity, people tend to believe body language or nonverbal behavior over spoken words. In fact, his research suggests that 7 percent of a message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words spoken, while 38 percent of the same message is conveyed by the tone or emotion used in speaking those words. Finally, 55 percent of the message is conveyed by facial or body expression. The more you become aware of the connection between your emotions, your body language, and your words and thoughts, the better able you will be to check in with yourself and ensure more congruity. In addition, you will be able to understand others by paying attention to their words, emotions, and body language.