To my readers, I say thanks. We have such an opportunity right now to shift our understanding of leadership, not merely in the workplace, but in everything we do. Be well, and I hope this provides some insight into connecting better.
The Terrible Twos
How many of you have raised small children . . . or been one? Then you already know there is a stage (sometimes an era) in our development called the terrible twos. It sets in at about 20 months, with periodic revisits if we mature sporadically. You might say we join the resistance at two years old. Robert Frost suggested, “something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” Seems like something there is about us that doesn’t love a ‘yes’.
I’ve worked with kids my whole life. When I first started trying to manage a gaggle of children, I’d raise my voice to get their attention. You can guess what happened. One day I accidentally lowered my voice to speak to one of the kids, and the strangest thing happened. They all wanted to hear, so the tumult tailed off. I learned that shouting over folks is trying to manage them; getting quiet is leading them. I’ll come back to that difference later.
Get Over the Counter
We’ve grown accustomed to winning points rather than understanding. I’ve had to do some serious re-programming myself on this one. I was a debate coach when I taught high school. We were pretty damn good – state champs, even went to the nationals, though we only made the first cut. I was tapped as a judge, and one of the criteria for scoring is that every single point raised by one team must be countered by their opponent. For years after, I only listened (including my personal conversations) in order to track and counter. Ouch! But how many of us, politician-like, listen only for the opportunity to counter? The knee-jerk of resistance or terrible twos revisited.
Margaret Wheatley, who somehow managed to link quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and leadership in Leadership and the New Science, proposes that “Power in organizations is the capacity generated by relationships.”
Every interaction we have not only moves to action, but it also moves the relationship. We can focus on both. More often than not, the focus on relationship is sacrificed to the focus on action, a different locus of control.
Management focuses on controlling others; leadership focuses on controlling ourselves. As the great conductor, Ben Zander asks, “Who am I being that the eyes of my orchestra are not lit up?”
I am learning that how I speak is important and worth some thought (see https://azalearning.com/uncategorized/sound-leadership). Yet the primary way to avoid being counter-productive is to listen differently. All we have to do is avoid, or at least subdue, the four landmines.
The Four Landmines
Argufying: making debate points by challenging and discounting rather than exploring toward understanding.
Ignoring: inattention, a sideways answer, or no answer, each of which shows we were ‘somewhere else’ while s/he was talking.
Negating: blaming, disagreeing, excusing, minimizing, or an unwillingness to help move the conversation toward possibilities.
Interrupting: talking over, cutting off, or stymieing via body language (looking away, glancing at your Fitbit). The exception to this behavior is when we respectfully interrupt to make sure we’re understanding. When changing habits, we feel unnatural. Don’t let that discomfort stop you. This shift in being is like learning to ride a bike or to swim. It feels awkward. Yet persistence (rather than resistance) will greatly expand the power of every relationship.
If you’d like to visit the audio version (with some added insight), simply click on http://learningchaos1243.audello.com/podcast/1/