Recently, I was having a conversation with one of my clients about the increasing ambiguity, complexity, and pace executives deal with every day. At one point, he said, ‘David, I would say fifty percent of my time each day revolves around cleaning up drama.’ When I told him to share more, he indicated that other’s reactions to seemingly innocuous interactions distract them from their work. Such perturbations end up eating up hours of time just to clear up misunderstandings that people take too personally. In the end, Authentic Courageous Leaders understand how to leverage drama to improve collaboration and results.
I would go so far to say that drama is not only a time killer, it deteriorates trust and obstructs results. But it is not just those lead that causes these scenes, many times reactions from executive leaders generate even more harm. So what to do? The first thing I would say is it is not as simple as saying ‘Don’t take things personally’ or ‘Get over it!’ This would discounting one’s human experience. When we are triggered, there is always a good reason. The key to resolve these reactions is taking the time to explore their cause and to understand the gift inherent in the one who reacts.
In short, whenever we react strongly to something it tells us we are touching upon something that is very important to us. When we are at our happiest and feeling in a flow, life is meeting our expectations and aligning with our values. When we are actively upset by events or others, life is failing to meet our expectations and values. It is that simple. The problem happens when we feel circumstances or others are the reason for our upset. That someone or something else is causing the upset. That said, by exploring what triggers us, we can come to see that we may have feedback or a request that will help us address our needs and build a more positive relationship with others. While another person is not the cause of our reaction, there may be something missing in the deliverable or the working relationship that we need to enhance our collaboration with them. There are two parts to the process of understanding our reactions. The first part involves personal reflection. The second part consists of determining if there is a missing conversation that will enhance our relationships at work.
Let’s start with the first part of this process, which involves exploring your reactions. Whenever you react strongly, you can ask the following questions that will bring clarity and allow you to sort out what was missing for you in the circumstances or interaction
Yes, this takes time! However, in my experience, we will discover over time that we tend to have similar reactions. Once you name them, you can learn to allow for them without causing unnecessary drama. So this first part will enable you to understand your reaction and what is missing for you. Once you have clarity on this, you can determine if a conversation with another(s) is necessary by focusing on part two below.
If the situation or stakeholders broke a promise or did not meet some expectation, an opportunity resides in having a conversation or series of discussions to improve communication, strengthen a relationship and/or deepen trust.
Remember, no two human beings see the world the same way. You can create greater alignment in understanding and revitalize commitments that forward priorities and improve the quality of the working relationship. However, the only way to do this is to talk about it.
Ask yourself, what conversation is most missing that could correct my concerns?
It may be essential to consider the value of having the missing conversation. The goal in requesting such a discussion is to strengthen alignment and partnership with those that were the trigger for your reaction.
In some cases, you may determine there is not an opening to have a conversation or for whatever reason you may be unwilling to declare a breakdown directly with the one who was your trigger. In this case, the missing communication may be with someone who might serve as an internal coach or sounding board and who can help you strategize next steps.
Finally, reacting to things in life is part of the deal with being human. When you find yourself judging the reaction, it causes more harm than good. The key is not shrugging reactions off but rather seeing them as an opportunity to understand yourself and others you work with better. Authentic Courageous Leaders explore these things and when they do they foster deeper intimacy with their work partners, and as this understanding deepens, productivity actually soars, and trust in relationships deepens. When executives take theirs and other’s reactions at face value and believe others are the cause, we harm collaborative efforts. In the end, it’s about being authentic and understanding we earn trust many times by being vulnerable with each other.
For more information on how to improve your relationships and foster greater collaboration click this link for a white paper on The Building High Value Relationships Method.
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