Updated: Oct 14, 2022
What conversation have you had where you deeply regret the way you behaved and the outcome you achieved?
For the most part I think I communicate pretty well and have built some really wonderful connections with people through conversations. But..... gosh I have also had a few doozies that I can talk about...and that thankfully I have learned from!
One particular example that sticks in my memory relates to an aggressive overbearing client who took delight in picking on people in my team to the point of often swearing at them, team members who had made a very silly error in an email to said aggressive and overbearing client, and me, the team leader who found out about the email in a particularly uncomfortable call from the client. How did I deal with it with my team? Not well!
It was at a time where I was being coached on how not to be walked all over, and so I was practicing my assertiveness skills. Unfortunately it was on a day where I was being triggered left, right and centre by internal and external factors and was working really REALLY hard not to be a pushover - to the extent that the behavioral pendulum had swung all the way from “doormat” to “aggressively uncompromising”.
The irony is not lost on me - I behaved in a way that was almost a carbon copy of how the client behaved. Storming into my team’s office, with the intention of not being seen as a weak manager, I pretty much threatened them with death if they ever sent another inappropriate email to the client. The outcome: defensiveness, some tears, a bit of finger pointing within the team, and fear.
Yes I got the desired outcome - I wasn’t seen as a pushover in that conversation.... but boy it was completely the wrong outcome to be looking for, when what I actually needed was a team that could work together to win over the client.
Since then I have made it my mission to have better conversations
I don't always succeed, but for the most part I try now to:
take a much more conscious approach to conversations,
be aware of how my external context and my internal chatter may be triggering me,
think more carefully about timing of a difficult conversation,
consider the perspective of others,
listen more than I talk,
ask more questions,
focus on the solution rather than the problem,
use my mistakes as opportunities to learn and do better next time.
I got to this point through being coached. That hour of coaching every week or two, and the work that I did in between sessions gave me the space to reflect on my behaviour and my self-imposed expectations and fears associated with the role I was in, and helped me develop awareness around how to do things differently and with greater competence.
What changes do you need to make so that you can have more effective conversations?
I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.
I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.
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