I’ve had many conversations recently about whether we ever truly change from our inborn “set point.” While I really want to be an optimist and have worked hard at it and often get there, at my core I most often start with pessimism. My husband, as many of you know, starts at optimism. Could he become a pessimist if he really wanted to? Hmmm … probably not. Could he learn pessimism if there was a good reason to do so at times? Most likely. Our set points are just that. Set points but not final points. It all depends upon how important it is we learn to do something against our set point.
I have the honour of working with many talented leaders, and I am struck by how often I say in response to angst ridden questions of what to do about something related to their people, “Why don’t you ask them?” I think the skills of analysis, innovation, risk taking, and execution lead many individual contributors to get promoted to leadership positions and those same skills need to be tamed in order to lead a team. It can be a tough transition to put those skills in the background and bring forward collaboration, reflection, empowerment, and inquiry. I have learned much about this myself this past year in that regard!
I have just spent some time with my sister and her family and noticed just how timely and specific her feedback is with her children, whether it’s praise or corrective. Why do we lose this as we get older? Just think how many dysfunctional situations could be avoided in the workplace if our feedback lag wasn’t as wide as the Grand Canyon.
It’s very easy to get sucked into potential conflict situations by arguing about the facts and who is right. But the real issue, according to Douglas Stone et al, is the notion that the heated conversation is generating emotions and threats to one’s identity. It takes skill to step back and listen for the emotions in the situation and even more skill to reflect upon how the conversation is threatening both yours and the other person’s identity.
We are preparing to debrief a group of leaders about their 360 results and I find the impact, intention concept a powerful one to help them make sense of feedback. We judge ourselves by our intent, but others judge us by the impact we have. Self-aware leaders practise curiosity to understand and close the resulting gap. Great leaders are clear about their intent and ensure their words and actions match that intent.
It’s seductive to slip into the role of “expert” and doing so is dangerous. Soon everyone, including you, frames you as your expertise. When this happens, people stop learning from one another. Resist the urge and remember you are more than your position. Remember to be human. This keeps us in touch and engaged with people.
When I ask people what they find inspiring in leaders, I often hear that they appreciate leaders who are authentic about what they need to learn, and quick to acknowledge the contributions of others. Jim Collins uses the metaphor of looking in the mirror to apportion responsibility and out the window to acknowledge the contributions of others.
We had the honour of working with the Victoria Brain Injury Society today as part of our once-a-quarter initiative and were blown away by their energy, engagement and vision for the future. I was also appreciative, as always, of working with great colleagues, Lisa Arora, Lisa Edwards, and Michele Breuer of the Victoria Executive Centre. Michele’s amazing meeting space inspired this blog. How often do you try to do important work in hotel rooms with no windows? For your next meeting, find a room with natural light and inspire and engage your participants.