leadership incorporated blog

July 31, 2011

Do you know where you’re leading from in stressful situations?

 (458 words, less than 2 minutes read time)

An exec, high in ranks of a financial organization, was dealing with a CEO who was increasingly angry and demanding. The harder the exec tried to figure out how to please the CEO and gain his acceptance, the angrier and more demanding, and even abusive, the CEO became. With each new conflict, the exec always came at it asking the question: what do I have to do to get him to accept me?

It turns out, the CEO didn’t give a whit about the personal relationship. All he cared about were the business results. He was becoming more and more frustrated by this exec’s focus on the personal. The more the exec pressed for acceptance the less accepting and more demanding the CEO became.

Neither of these smart, talented, experienced professionals were wrong. Results are essential. So are good working relationships. What was going on is that each of them was approaching every problem from their own particular style and with a huge gaping blind spot to the style of other.

We all do this. We may think that we have many reasoned approaches to dealing with our business partners. But if we’re brutally honest with ourselves and take a  deep look, we’ll see that especially in the face of problems — real problems, the ones that stump us, the ones we don’t know how to solve, the ones that get under our skin — particularly in those moments, we each have our own habitual reaction that is our default. And it blinds us to other options and opportunities.

We might become angry and demanding. We might get very worried about the relationships and be unable to see anything else. We might focus on finding any solution that will stabilize the situation, anything to create peace now. We might focus on the details and facts, trying to prove our way out of the situation. We might go quiet and avoid the problem, hoping it will just go away. And so on.

The more stressful the situation, the more likely that we will approach it from that same room in our minds.

What room in your mind do you lead from when you are stuck in a business problem?

One of the ways I coach leaders and management teams is to make them  aware that they are only seeing the one room, while there’s a whole estate worth of other options available to them that can increase their effectiveness and their organization’s productivity.

The poet Hafiz said “Change rooms in your mind for a day.”

True leaders, when frustrated, change focus inside themselves before focusing outside themselves.
Become aware of your internal scenery. Find the door out of the room you’re stuck in and see what new solutions become possible.
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