Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Building Our Leadership Skills Part 2… Setting an Intention

 So… we talked a bit last time about how to mentor your new supervisor on having difficult conversations.  There is more to mentoring a new supervisor of course, and getting someone who is new to a supervisory role past the initial fear of having, what otherwise might be, a difficult conversation is an important hurdle to get over.

We didn’t really talk about what our conversation should actually look like, did we?  There are lot’s of different ways to speak to a team member about a behavior that needs to change… too many of them are not appropriate for someone who would call themselves a Leader.   I doubt that I’m alone in saying I have been on the receiving end of a conversation about something I was doing wrong, or not doing, that sounded like an angry adult who was not in control of their emotions yelling at a child.  I have been talked down to, told to shut up, shut up and listen, what you (I) have to say is not important here, that I had no business asking any questions, and more craziness than I care to get into.  How do you think a team member on the receiving end of these kinds of comments feels about their boss, and about their job?  Do you think they are invested in the success of the business?  Do you think they respect the boss, or care whether or not the boss achieves his or her goals?  NO… the answer is no.

So, Steve you ask… just how should a conversation to get a team member to change their behavior go?  Well I’ll tell you.  Just shut up and listen!   Ha!

Here is a key… before doing anything like having a conversation that could easily go wrong; we should set an intention for ourselves.  What does that mean you ask?  Well… what is my intention in speaking with you about your behavior?  You are a team member on my team.  There is a high probability that I have 1 or 2 team members that I do not want on my team and I am working to get off the team (you may have a higher number that you want off your team, and we’ll deal with that later).  We’ll ignore them for now.   You are one of the other team members, and you are doing something that I need to ask you to stop doing.  So… in general, I am doing my best to be a Leader, right?  So I want you on my team.  I respect you as a person.  I am interested in helping you achieve your goals.  I want you to succeed.  I want you to feel like an important and valued part of the team.  All of these things are true, right!?  If you want to be a good leader, and you have been reading the books, and you want to achieve your goals, then all of these things are true OR you are convincing yourself that they are true as best you can, and acting as if they were true.

My intention for our conversation then, is simply to talk to you about whatever behavior needs to change, and have you leave the room knowing all of those statements above are true, AND knowing that you are doing something that is not acceptable and you need to stop doing it.  If I take the time to set that intention before our talk I am much more likely to be able to start the meeting in a way that allows you to hear what I mean to say.  I’m much more likely to be able to speak from my heart without any fears messing it up.  If I set that intention I am more likely to be able to keep my emotions in check if you get defensive, or feel attacked and attack me back.  I won’t feel threatened by any of that, since I have just reinforced my feelings about you and the talk we need to have.  I know that sometimes people feel attacked and get defensive, and it’s not about me.  I will be able to keep my head, and bring the conversation back to the behavior that needs to change, without any emotional interference.

Before going into a meeting you might set an intention to be supportive of your team Leader, even though you rarely see eye to eye.  You might set an intention, when talking to one of those people you want to get off the team, to have them leave the room knowing that you respect them as a person AND their attitude and/or behavior will no longer be acceptable.  It’s about their behavior, not their value as a person, and so we will be more able to keep our emotions in check.  Their defensiveness, emotional outbursts, verbal attacks, or blaming of others need not impact your emotional state.  You have set an intention of being there to deliver a message… this is the first step in moving you off this team and off to another job where you will be a better fit.  There is no reason to get involved in their drama.

Setting an intention sets the scene.  It reinforces our emotional state.  Setting an intention is a great practice, in particular before doing something we often mess up.  For instance, if you often have a tough time dealing with the kids… getting them involved with something and allowing it to turn out however it turns out, try setting an intention beforehand.  Decide that you are going to let the kids help with dinner, and it doesn’t matter what happens.  The important part for them is spending time with you having fun.  You can always piece together something that is actually edible later, or better yet plan if beforehand.  If you set the intention that the outcome doesn’t matter, you will probably have a better time playing with the kids, allowing them to be kids.  You can set an intention about anything, from dealing with that jerk down the hall, to accepting your commute and getting home in a better mood.    Try it and see for yourself.

So… I think we’ll have to take up what our conversation with that team member should actually sound like the next time, as talking about setting an intention took much longer than I thought.

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